United States District Court, District of Columbia
E. BOASBERG, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
United States Postal Service has unilaterally reformed the
duties and functions of letter carriers in the Annandale,
Virginia, Post Office, requiring them to spend less time in
the office and more time on the street. To boot, USPS is
currently rolling out these test reforms at several hundred
other post offices. Plaintiff, the National Association of
Letter Carriers, AFL-CIO (NALC) - a labor union that
represents postal employees - now moves for injunctive relief
to block this new workplace initiative. NALC alleges that
these actions constitute a breach of the parties'
operative collective-bargaining agreement and several Postal
Service regulations. Later this month, the parties are
scheduled to arbitrate this dispute under the terms of the
CBA. But the Union asks this Court to intervene now, on the
ground that Defendant's reforms are currently injuring
its members' physical health, damages that arbitration
cannot remedy. It therefore seeks a preliminary injunction
pending arbitration. Because such relief is unnecessary to
protect the integrity of the arbitral process, the Court
concludes that it lacks jurisdiction to grant an injunction
and will deny Plaintiff's Motion and dismiss the case.
represents city letter carriers employed by the Postal
Service. See ECF No. 1 (Complaint), ¶ 1. USPS,
in turn, is an independent agency of the Executive Branch,
see 39 U.S.C. § 201, that provides mail
services throughout the country. Id. §§
101, 403. Of central significance here, the relationship
between the Union and the Postal Service is governed by a CBA
that sets forth the terms and conditions of the employment of
carriers. See Compl., ¶¶ 16- 28.
particular, Article 34 lays out the procedure for testing
potential changes in “work measurement systems or work
or time standards.” ECF No. 2 (Plaintiff's Motion
for Preliminary Injunction), Exh. 2 (Exhibit A - 2016 CBA),
Art. 34(B). Article 34(C) provides that when USPS
“determines the need to implement any new nationally
developed and nationally applicable work or time standards,
it will first conduct a test or tests of the standards in one
or more installations.” And if a dispute arises
involving the interpretation of the CBA, the parties'
agreement sets out a grievance procedure that includes
national-level arbitration. Id., Arts. 15, 34(D),
conflict here centers around the Postal Service's
Consolidated Casing Initiative (CCI), which is meant to
streamline its operations. See Compl., ¶¶
29-63. Ordinarily, a carrier's daily duties include both
office time and street time. Id., ¶¶
11-12. While at the office, a letter carrier
“cases” the mail for his route and performs other
related work. Id., ¶ 12. More specifically,
“[c]asing mail involves sorting mail by address, by
placing the pieces of mail for the delivery route into . . .
a cabinet-like structure.” Id. After doing so,
the letter carrier spends the rest of his shift delivering
the mail on a designated delivery route. Id., ¶
to Defendant, this model of doing business is outdated and
has created operational inefficiencies, inflated costs, and
reduced workspace. See ECF No. 11 (Defendant's
Motion to Dismiss) at 7-8. To address these concerns, it
developed an initiative to test restructured carrier
assignments. Id. at 8; see also Compl.,
¶¶ 29-30, 35. The test consists of assigning some
carriers exclusively office duties - i.e., casing -
and others exclusively street duties - i.e., mail
delivery. Id., ¶¶ 29-30. In a letter dated
March 21, 2019, Defendant notified the Union that the
Annandale, Virginia, Post Office would serve as the first
“test site.” Id., ¶ 30. The Postal
Service also asserted that its initiative complied with
Article 34 of the CBA. Id., ¶ 29.
April 24, NALC responded by initiating a national-level
grievance, alleging that the Service's actions violated
the CBA. Id., ¶ 31. It further explained that
the initiative was not authorized by Article 34 and breached
other provisions of the CBA and Postal Service regulations.
Id., ¶¶ 31, 44-51. Undeterred, USPS pushed
forward, and less than a month later, it reconfigured the
Annandale carriers' work assignments. Id.,
reform, the Union argues, has taken a heavy toll on some of
its Annandale members. Id., ¶¶ 35-37,
39-43. Those assigned exclusively to street duty are working
longer hours delivering mail and carrying heavier satchels.
See Pl. PI Mot. at 8. And as they begin work about
an hour later each day, they are “more . . . exposed to
the heat of the long summer afternoons, ” deliver into
the night hours in the fall and winter, and no longer can
“run necessary personal errands before offices and
businesses close.” Id. at 8-9. Shouldering
this burden has resulted in “physical exhaustion,
ailments, pain and mental stress.” Id. at 8.
So far, the Postal Service has introduced its initiative at
seven other sites, but it will increase that number to over
240, which expansion NALC also challenges. See ECF
No. 16 (Plaintiff's Opposition) at 1.
impasse, the parties initially agreed to arbitrate their
dispute on December 18, 2019, see ECF No. 21
(Arbitration Notice) at 2, and they have recently agreed to
move up the date to November 22. Id. Meanwhile, on
August 29, the Union filed both a Complaint and a Motion for
a Preliminary Injunction in this Court. In each filing,
Plaintiff has sought to enjoin the Postal Service from
proceeding with its initiative pending arbitration.
See Compl. at 12 (Prayer for Relief); Pl. PI Mot. at
18. Defendant, in turn, moves to dismiss the Complaint for
lack of jurisdiction.
Union's Complaint and its Motion are coterminous, as they
both raise exactly the same issue - whether the Court can
enjoin the Postal Service from carrying out its initiative
before the late-November arbitration. See Compl. at
12 (Prayer for Relief); id., ¶¶ 58-63; Pl.
PI Mot. at 10-18. In other words, the Complaint seeks no
relief beyond the Motion; as NALC's filings thus rise and
fall together, the Court need not address them separately.
The Court, consequently, addresses only Defendant's
Motion to Dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of
Civil Procedure. See Def. MTD at 1, 11.
considering such Motion, the Court must “treat the
complaint's factual allegations as true and must grant
plaintiff ‘the benefit of all inferences that can be
derived from the facts alleged.'” Sparrow v.
United Air Lines, Inc., 216 F.3d 1111, 1113 (D.C. Cir.
2000) (citation omitted) (quoting Schuler v. United
States, 617 F.2d 605, 608 (D.C. Cir. 1979)). The Court
need not accept as true, however, “a legal conclusion
couched as a factual allegation, ” nor an inference
“unsupported by the facts set out in the
complaint.” Trudeau v. FTC, 456 F.3d 178, 193
(D.C. Cir 2006) (quoting Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S.
265, 286 (1986)).
Rule 12(b)(1), a plaintiff bears the burden of proving that
the Court has subject-matter jurisdiction to hear his claims.
See Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555,
561 (1992). A court also has an “affirmative obligation
to ensure that it is acting within the scope of its
jurisdictional authority.” Grand Lodge of Fraternal
Order of Police v. Ashcroft, 185 F.Supp.2d 9, 13 (D.D.C.
2001). As such, “‘the plaintiff's factual
allegations in the complaint . . . will bear closer scrutiny
in resolving a 12(b)(1) motion' than in resolving a
12(b)(6) motion for ...