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USPS v. NATIONAL RURAL LETTER CARRIERS ASSN.

July 17, 1990

UNITED STATES POSTAL SERVICE, Plaintiff,
v.
NATIONAL RURAL LETTER CARRIERS ASSOCIATION and NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF LETTER CARRIERS, Defendants


Joyce Hens Green, United States District Judge.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: GREEN

JOYCE HENS GREEN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

 The tangle of pending motions in this case grows out of a "craft jurisdictional" dispute the United States Postal Service ("USPS") is having with the two defendant unions over delivery of mail in Oakton and Vienna, Virginia. Rural letter carriers, represented by the National Rural Letter Carriers Association ("NRLCA"), perform this work. On March 30, 1989, the National Association of Letter Carriers ("NALC"), which represents city letter carriers, initiated a national-level grievance with the USPS claiming that, under their collective bargaining agreement, its members were entitled to deliver mail in these areas. USPS denied the grievance on June 30, 1989, and NALC appealed the matter to arbitration on July 10. The parties agreed in writing to commence arbitration before Arbitrator Richard Mittenthal on November 14, 1989.

 Because of a prior decision in a similar arbitration, NALC did not oppose the intervention of NRLCA. NRLCA, however, did not participate and initiated a lawsuit to stop the November 14 hearing. NRLCA v. NALC & USPS, C.A. No. 89-3098 (GAG) (D.D.C.). Not wanting to accede to arbitration before someone not of their own choosing, NRLCA requested an order compelling tripartite arbitration before an arbitrator other than Mr. Mittenthal, but its application for a temporary restraining order was denied. The hearing went forward, without NRLCA's participation. Prior to the second scheduled hearing date (December 13), USPS moved for a continuance to enable it to attempt to compel NRLCA to participate in the grievance. NALC agreed to the postponement.

 NRLCA voluntarily dismissed its complaint on January 2, 1990. USPS then filed the instant case requesting tripartite arbitration -- in other words, the inclusion of NRLCA in the USPS-NALC arbitration. USPS will not agree to schedule a new hearing date for the bipartite arbitration of the NALC dispute until the instant suit is resolved.

 The following motions are now ready for decision: a motion by defendant NALC to compel bipartite arbitration with USPS; a motion by plaintiff USPS for summary judgment compelling the two defendant unions to submit to tripartite arbitration; and two motions by defendant NRLCA: to realign itself as a plaintiff in this case, and to continue the proceedings until it has an opportunity to conduct certain discovery.

 For the reasons set forth below, NALC's motion is denied, NRLCA's motions are denied, and USPS's motion is granted. The parties are ordered to submit to tripartite arbitration before two arbitrators.

 I

 Each union is the exclusive bargaining representative of its letter carrier craft employees. Each has negotiated a collective bargaining agreement with USPS; neither is a party to the other's agreement. NALC's agreement with USPS, negotiated in 1987, provides for a multi-step grievance procedure, culminating in arbitration. All grievances involving interpretation of the agreement must be resolved through binding arbitration at the national level. The arbitrator is selected from an established national panel of arbitrators. Agreement between United States Postal Service and American Postal Workers Union, AFL-CIO, National Association of Letter Carriers, AFL-CIO, 1987-1990 ("NALC Agreement"), Art. 15. Arbitrator Mittenthal is one of these arbitrators. NRLCA's agreement with USPS is substantially identical, also providing for a multistep grievance procedure culminating in binding arbitration before an arbitrator chosen from an established panel. Agreement between United States Postal Service and National Rural Letter Carriers Association, 1988-1990 ("NRLCA Agreement"), Art. 15. It is in these agreements that each party stakes its claim.

 The current positions of the parties are as follows: NALC wishes to compel bipartite arbitration between it and the USPS before Arbitrator Mittenthal, but would not object to intervention by NRLCA. NRLCA, on the other hand, apparently seeks to compel trilateral arbitration (or so it indicates by moving to be realigned as a plaintiff), but only if it has a voice in the selection of arbitrator(s). Yet NRLCA refuses to participate in arbitration if it takes place only before Arbitrator Mittenthal. Finally, USPS requests an order compelling tripartite arbitration, either before Mittenthal (its preference) or before Mittenthal and Zumas, the latter selected from the NRLCA panel.

 Clearly, all parties believe that this situation should be and is appropriately resolved by arbitration. At issue is whether the Court has the authority to compel tripartite arbitration, and if so, in front of which arbitrator(s).

 This Court's authority to order tripartite arbitration is clear, especially in light of recent circuit court decisions. Generally, a party cannot be compelled to submit to arbitration unless the party's collective bargaining agreement provides for arbitration. United Steelworkers of America v. Warrior & Gulf Navigation Co., 363 U.S. 574, 578-79, 4 L. Ed. 2d 1409, 80 S. Ct. 1347 (1960). The two agreements governing here both have such provisions. That these arbitration clauses do not specifically provide for tripartite arbitration does not present an insurmountable obstacle.

 The trend in the case law throughout the federal judiciary has been to order tripartite arbitration (and uphold such orders) in circumstances such as those presented here. This trend originated in 1969, when the Second Circuit held that where two unions each have arbitration clauses in their agreements, a district court has the authority and power to compel them to submit to tripartite arbitration, even though this type of arbitration was not specifically provided for in their contracts. Columbia Broadcasting System, Inc. v. American Recording & Broadcasting Association, 414 F.2d 1326 (2d Cir. 1969). Many courts have followed the Second Circuit's lead. See, e.g., National ...


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