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American Postal Workers Union, AFL-CIO v. National Postal Mail Handlers Union

February 21, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Alan Kay United States Magistrate Judge


Pending before this Court are cross-motions for summary judgment by Plaintiff American Postal Workers Union ("APWU" or "Plaintiff") and Defendant National Postal Mail Handlers Union ("NPMHU" or "Defendant").*fn1 Defendant United States Postal Service (the "Postal Service") opposes NPMHU's motion for summary judgment (the "NPMHU Motion") [22], which requests confirmation of an underlying arbitration award, while the Postal Service assents to APWU's motion for summary judgment (the "APWU Motion") [21], which requests that such award be vacated, or alternatively, that the case be remanded to the arbitrator for clarification of his award. A hearing on these two Motions was held on December 7, 2006, and during that hearing, the parties discussed the fact that the arbitrator who entered the Opinion and Award no longer serves as an arbitrator. At the conclusion of the hearing, the Court directed the parties to provide supplemental briefing on the issue of the unavailability of the original arbitrator and whether this fact would preclude a remand. The parties provided this Court with their supplemental briefs in late December 2006.*fn2 Upon careful consideration of the arguments presented by the parties, for reasons set forth below, APWU's Motion [21] is DENIED, and NPMHU's Motion [22] is GRANTED, with the effect that the arbitration award is confirmed. An appropriate Order accompanies this Memorandum Opinion.

I. Background

In their Statements of Material Facts Not in Dispute, both the NPMHU and APWU set forth extensive background information, summarized as follows. The NPMHU and the APWU are labor organizations representing employees of the Postal Service. (NPMHU Statement of Undisputed Material Facts ("Statement") at ¶1.)*fn3 The Postal Service recognizes NPMHU and APWU as the collective bargaining representatives for all mail handlers and clerical employees, respectively. (Id. at ¶¶2-3.) The Postal Service has entered into separate collective bargaining agreements with the NPMHU and APWU (also known as the NPMHU-USPS National Agreement and the APWU-USPS National Agreement, respectively). (Id. at ¶4.) The grievance procedure is separate for each union under each collective bargaining agreement. (APWU Statement of Undisputed Material Facts ("Statement") at ¶2.) Article 15 of each collective bargaining agreement sets forth the procedure for bringing and processing grievances under such agreements. (NPMHU Statement at ¶5.)

In 1979, the Postal Service issued Regional Instruction No. 399 ("RI-399") delineating the criteria for making craft assignments; i.e., whether the clerk craft or the mail handler craft will be assigned to carry out various functions. (NPMHU Statement at ¶7, APWU Statement at ¶2.) On April 16, 1992, the two unions and the Postal Service entered into an tripartite agreement entitled "Memorandum of Understanding" ('MOU") pertaining to RI-399 Dispute Resolution Procedures (APWU Statement at ¶3.) Following the adoption of the RI-399 Dispute Resolution Procedures in 1992, jurisdictional disputes were to be resolved by tripartite Dispute Resolution Committees, or by arbitration, if not resolved by the Committees. (NPMHU Statement at ¶10; APWU Statement at ¶4.) Disputes regarding the performance of work in violation of the craft assignments, which are referred to as "cross-craft" or "crossing craft" grievances, were still to be brought as grievances under Article 15 of the collective bargaining agreements. (NPMHUStatementat ¶11.)*fn4

The dispute underlying this case arises from an arbitration award, issued by an arbitrator, Eric Schmertz, (hereinafter, the "Arbitrator") in favor of NPMHU. The arbitration was set for the purpose of resolving two grievances that were originally filed in October of 1993 by members of Local 300 of the NPMHU, pursuant to its collective bargaining agreement with the Postal Service. These grievances challenged the Postal Service's decision to staff the Label Room and Duplicating Room of the Brooklyn General Mail Facility with clerical employees represented by APWU, rather than mail handlers represented by NPMHU. (NPMHU Motion, Exh. 9 [Declaration of Lawrence Hill] at ¶18.]*fn5

In November 1993, and again in March 1994, the Postal Service denied the grievances during various stages of the contractual grievance procedure, and accordingly, the grievances were then certified for arbitration and scheduled for a March 1999 hearing. (Hill Declaration at ¶¶19-21.) In February 1999, approximately six years after the grievance procedure commenced and about one month prior to scheduled arbitration, the Postal Service unilaterally referred the grievances to the RI-399 dispute resolution process because it believed that the grievances presented jurisdictional disputes.*fn6 (APWU Statement at ¶6; NPMHU Statement at ¶¶20-21.)

In accordance with the RI-399 dispute resolution process, the grievances were referred to the Local Dispute Resolution Committee but because they were not resolved by such Committee, they were then scheduled for arbitration before Arbitrator Eric Schmertz, who served on a panel of arbitrators appointed by NPMHU, APWU, and the Postal Service. (Hill Declaration at ¶¶23-24; APWU Motion, Exh. 1 [Declaration of Michael Gallaher] at ¶6.) Arbitrator Schmertz held hearings on January 21, 2005 and February 18, 2005. (Hill Declaration at ¶25.) In an Opinion dated March 23, 2005, the Arbitrator determined that "[t]he grievances of the Mail Handlers, regarding the staffing of the Label room and the Copy room [at the Brooklyn, New York General Mail Facility] are arbitrable under the [Mail Handlers'] collective bargaining agreement with the Postal Service but not arbitrable in the RI-399 Forum." (APWU Motion, Exh. 3 to Gallagher Declaration [Opinion and Award] at 7.) APWU and the Postal Service challenge the Arbitrator's decision.

The parties agree that the sole issue to be determined by this Court is whether the Arbitrator exceeded his authority by remanding the NPMHU's grievances for further processing under the grievance procedure contained in the bilateral collective bargaining agreement between NPMHU and the Postal Service, and consequently, whether the Arbitrator's award should be affirmed or vacated.

II. Legal Standard

A. Summary Judgment Standard

Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, a party is entitled to summary judgment if the pleadings and evidence show that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that the party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56; Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-52 (1986). In reviewing a motion for summary judgment, the court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. However, the nonmoving party must present more than a "scintilla of evidence" and must come forward with specific facts that would enable a reasonable jury to find in its favor. Id. at 252; Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986). If the evidence presented by the nonmoving party is "merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249-50 (citations omitted).

Under Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c), a court should grant summary judgment if "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories and admissions . . ., together with the affidavits, if any, show there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. at 323; Tao v. Freeh, 27 F.3d 635, 638 (D.C. Cir. 1994). Although a court should draw all reasonable inferences from the records submitted by the nonmoving party, the mere existence of a factual dispute, by itself, is insufficient to bar summary judgment. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. at 248. The nonmoving party must demonstrate specific facts in the record which create a genuine issue as to a material fact to oppose the motion for summary judgment. The party opposing summary judgment must adduce evidence which, when considered in light of his burden of proof at trial, could be a basis for the jury finding for the nonmoving party. Alcman Services Corp. v. Bullock, 925 F. Supp. 252, 256 (D.N.J. 1996), aff'd, 124 F. 3d 185 (3d Cir. 1997). To be genuine, the issue must be supported by admissible evidence such that a reasonable trier of fact could find for the nonmoving party; to be material, the factual assertion must be capable of affecting the substantive outcome of the litigation. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248; see also Laningham v. U.S. Navy, 813 F.2d 1236, 1242-43 (D.C. Cir. 1987).

Mere allegations or denials in the adverse party's pleadings are insufficient to defeat an otherwise proper motion for summary judgment. The nonmoving party bears the affirmative duty to present, by affidavits or other means, specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248-49. The adverse party must do more that simply "show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to ...

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