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AMERICAN POSTAL WORKERS UNION v. U.S. POSTAL SERV.

November 15, 2000

AMERICAN POSTAL WORKERS UNION, AFL-CIO, PLAINTIFF,
V.
UNITED STATES POSTAL SERVICE, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Huvelle, District Judge.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

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.

BACKGROUND

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. The current National Agreement is effective from November 21, 1998 to November 20, 2000.

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 this Agreement.

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 arbitration.

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 National Agreement.

LEGAL ANALYSIS

A. Legal Standard

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 ...

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