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American Postal Workers Union, AFL-CIO v. United States Postal Service

July 6, 2007

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



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Colleen Kollar-kotelly United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Plaintiff, the American Postal Workers Union, AFL-CIO ("Plaintiff" or the "APWU") brought this action for declaratory and injunctive relief against Defendant, the United States Postal Service (the "USPS"). Plaintiff's Complaint alleges that the USPS violated Section 3661 of the Postal Reorganization Act ("Section 3661"), 39 U.S.C. § 3661, by beginning implementation of the USPS' Evolutionary Network Development ("END") program without submitting END to the Postal Rate Commission (the "PRC") for an advisory opinion within a reasonable time prior to the program's effective date and without waiting for an advisory opinion from the PRC. The PRC has now issued its advisory opinion on END, and USPS therefore moves to dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6), asserting that this Court lacks jurisdiction to review an advisory opinion issued under Section 3661 and that Plaintiff's requests for injunctive relief, and therefore this action, are moot. Plaintiff opposes USPS' Motion to Dismiss, and has also filed a Motion for Leave to File Supplemental and Amended Complaint in response to USPS' Motion to Dismiss.

Upon a searching review of the filings submitted by each party, the attached exhibits, and the relevant statutes and case law, the Court concludes that the instant action is moot. The Court shall therefore grant Defendant's Motion to Dismiss this case pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), and shall also deny Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to File a Supplemental and Amended Complaint.*fn1

I. BACKGROUND

Section 3661(b) of the Postal Reorganization Act provides:

When the [USPS] determines that there should be a change in the nature of postal services which will generally affect service on a nationwide or substantially nationwide basis, it shall submit a proposal, within a reasonable time prior to the effective date of such proposal, to the [Postal Rate Commission]*fn2 requesting an advisory opinion on the change.

39 U.S.C. § 3661(b); Compl. ¶¶ 16-17. Furthermore, pursuant to Section 3661(c), the Postal Rate Commission ("PRC") "shall not issue its opinion on any proposal until an opportunity for hearing on the record under sections 556 and 557 of title 5 has been accorded to the [USPS], users of the mail, and an officer of the Commission who shall be required to represent the interests of the general public. . . ." 39 U.S.C. § 3661(c); Compl. ¶ 39.

A. Facts Alleged in Plaintiff's Complaint

Plaintiff, American Postal Workers Union, AFL-CIO, is a labor organization that represents approximately 300,000 postal employees for purposes of collective bargaining, as well as a large mailer. Id. ¶ 8. In its Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that as early as November 2001, USPS began development of a Network Integration and Alignment (NIA) plan to be used to analyze and redesign the existing postal facility network. Id. ¶ 10. According to Plaintiff, the NIA plan was sufficiently developed to be used, at least in part, by December 2002. Id. ¶ 12. Plaintiff further alleges that, since then, USPS "has used its NIA plan to evaluate proposals to consolidate postal facilities; and proposals selected by NIA have resulted in the closure of approximately 30 [USPS] processing facilities, and in the reallocation of work processed in other facilities." Id. ¶ 13. Plaintiff asserts that, although the NIA plan has been renamed the Evolutionary Network Development ("END") process, NIA and END use the same methods, data, models and objectives for designing the USPS mail processing network. Id. ¶ 14.

Plaintiff's Complaint states that previous proceedings before the PRC pursuant to Section 3661 of the Postal Reorganization Act have taken approximately 8-12 months to complete, such that "eight months to one year is a reasonable period of time for completion of a Section 3661 proceeding concerning END." Id. ¶¶ 18-19. However, according to Plaintiff, USPS submitted a portion of its END plan to the PRC pursuant to Section 3661 on February 14, 2006, stating that USPS intended to implement END on or about May 15, 2006. Id. ¶¶ 20-21. Plaintiff asserts that USPS sought expedited consideration of END whereby the PRC would have been required to provide its advice regarding END by May 5, 2006, in time for USPS' May 15, 2006 implementation of END. Id. ¶ 22. The PRC, however, rejected USPS' proposed schedule and, on April 13, 2006, issued a procedural and briefing schedule under which--Plaintiff's Complaint asserts--the Commission would be unlikely to issue its decision on END before the fall of 2006. Id. ¶¶ 25-26.

Plaintiff alleges that, notwithstanding the PRC's time frame, by the time that Plaintiff filed its Complaint, USPS had already begun to consolidate postal facilities using the END initiative. Id. ¶ 27. Specifically, Plaintiff asserts that "[a]t least ten postal facilities were selected for Area Mail Process ("AMP") review in the summer of 2005,"*fn3 "subjected to END analysis and found to be consistent with [USPS'] future network design," and scheduled to be consolidated into other facilities. Id. ¶ 28. Plaintiff's Complaint further alleges that consolidation of the Olympia, Washington Processing & Distribution Facility into the Tacoma, Washington Processing & Distribution Center began on April 3, 2006, and that consolidation for all ten AMP proposals was expected to be completed by June 2006. Id. ¶¶ 29-31. Plaintiff also asserts that forty-one additional postal facilities have been targeted for review under END and are expected to be consolidated. Id. ¶ 32.

Plaintiff's Complaint alleges that, despite the policies embodied in the Postal Reorganization Act, USPS "does not provide for solicitation and consideration of comments and concerns of the mailing public as part of its END initiative" before consolidation decisions are made. Id. ¶ 37. Plaintiff further states that the END plan does not consider the costs or burdens of END on the mailing public, but rather considers only USPS costs. Id. ¶ 38. Finally, Plaintiff asserts that USPS was required, but nevertheless failed, to seek the advice of the PRC (which in turn must afford an opportunity for public comment) before implementing END. Id. ¶¶ 39-40. Plaintiff argues that the changes made by USPS under END "will adversely affect mail service to the APWU and its locals in many areas," and "will be impractical to reverse resulting in irreparable harm to APWU, its locals, and other mailers across the United States who will experience a degradation in service." Id. ¶¶ 41-42. Thus, Plaintiffs assert that the "benefits of requiring [USPS] to cease implementation of END until it has the opportunity to avail itself of the [PRC's] advice outweigh any harm to the Postal Service caused by the delay." Id. ¶ 43.

As noted above, Plaintiff filed its Complaint on April 21, 2006, seeking a declaration "that it is unlawful for [USPS] to proceed with modification to its mail processing operations pursuant to END because [USPS] has failed to submit END to the [PRC] a reasonable time prior to the implementation of END." Id. ¶ 44. In addition, Plaintiff sought two injunctions: (1) a preliminary injunction ordering USPS to cease and desist from modifying postal operations and facilities pursuant to END until October 2006, in order to provide the PRC a reasonable amount of time to conduct hearings and issue an opinion on END;*fn4 and (2) a permanent injunction that would preclude USPS from implementing any future modifications pursuant to END until the PRC had issued its advisory opinion. Id. ¶¶ 45-46.

B. Events Subsequent to the Filing of Plaintiff's Complaint

The following events occurred subsequent to the filing of Plaintiff's Complaint and are described by the parties in their filings with respect to USPS' Motion to Dismiss, as well as by Plaintiff in its Motion ...


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