The opinion of the court was delivered by: Huvelle, District Judge.
Before the Court are plaintiff's motion for summary judgment and
defendant's cross-motion for summary judgment. Having considered the
motions, the oppositions and the entire record herein, the Court grants
defendant's cross-motion for summary judgment and denies plaintiff's
motion for summary judgment.
Plaintiff, the American Postal Workers Union (APWU), is a labor union
representing approximately 350,000 postal employees nationwide. For many
years the APWU and the defendant, the United States Postal Service
("Postal Service"), have been parties to National Agreements, pursuant
to Section 1206 of the Postal Reorganization Act of 1970, 39 U.S.C. § 1206.
These Agreements set forth the terms and conditions of employment and
provide for a grievance and arbitration procedure to resolve disputes.
National Agreement is effective from November 21, 1998 to November 20,
The grievance and arbitration procedures are outlined in Article 15 of
the National Agreement. Article 15.1 defines a "grievance" as:
a dispute, difference, disagreement or complaint
between the parties related to wages, hours, and
conditions of employment. A grievance shall
include, but is not limited to, the complaint of
an employee or of the Union which involves the
interpretation, application of, or compliance with
the provisions of this Agreement or any local
Memorandum of Understanding not in conflict with
The National Agreement provides for a four-step process of grievance
resolution. Grievances which concern the interpretation of the National
Agreement and involve issues of general application of the Agreement can
be initiated at Step 4 and are the subject of national-level binding
arbitration. In particular, Article 15.4.D sets forth the procedures for
this expedited grievance procedure. The Agreement requires that the
parties meet within thirty days of initiation of the grievance to
develop the facts underlying the dispute. Each party is then required to
put in writing its understanding of the issues and facts. If resolution
is not achieved, the Union may appeal the grievance to national
The APWU alleges that since 1993, it has initiated Step 4 grievances
on seventeen different issues. Defendant disputes this allegation. The
APWU further alleges that the Postal Service has violated the National
Agreement by failing to meet with the Union and provide written
statements of understanding within the time limits provided for in the
National Agreement. Again, the Postal Service disputes these allegations.
The APWU has brought this action seeking declaratory and injunctive
relief. It seeks, inter alia, an order requiring the Postal Service to
grant the grievances in question and to comply with Article 15 of the
Summary judgment is appropriate only if "there is no genuine issue of
material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter
of law." Fed. R. Civ. Proc. 56(c). The mere existence of some factual
dispute will not preclude the entry of summary judgment. Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202
(1986). "Only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the
suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary
judgment." Id. at 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505.
B. Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment must be denied because
there are material facts in dispute.
In its Complaint, the APWU states that it has initiated Step 4
grievances on seventeen separate issues since October 1993. In its
motion for summary judgment, the APWU alleges that the Postal Service
failed to meet to define precise issues, develop necessary facts, and
reach agreement on fourteen of these issues. While the APWU asserts that
there is no genuine issue regarding these facts, the Postal Service
claims, based on the Valenti Declaration ¶¶ 10-19, that the APWU never
initiated grievances on five of these issues, and that meetings were
held on seven others. This is but one example of the factual issues in
dispute between the parties with respect to at least some of the
seventeen grievances identified by the plaintiff. It is therefore
apparent that there are genuine issues of material fact which preclude
the granting of summary judgment in favor of the plaintiff.
C. Defendant is entitled to summary judgment because plaintiff has
failed to exhaust contractual ...