On March 6, 2009, the American Postal Workers Union, Detroit District Area Local, AFL-CIO filed a complaint against the U.S. Postal Service in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. After reading the complaint it appears that local management did not get the PMG Potter memo on honoring the contract. Read on…
Excerpts from the complaint filed:
STATEMENT OF THE CLAIM
The Postal Service’s November 2008 Actions
Plaintiff APWU-DDAL represents bargaining unit employees, including Clerk Craft employees, employed at numerous postal facilities located in the Detroit area.
By letters dated November 17, 2008, Defendant Postal Service notified approximately 200 Clerk Craft employees represented by the APWU-DDAL that they were being involuntarily re-assigned. These Clerk Craft employees work at about 22 different postal facilities. Affected Clerk Craft employees would be re-assigned to different hours and/or off days and could be transferred to different postal facilities. The Postal Service may even attempt to re-assign some of the affected Clerk Craft employees to different Crafts, including the Letter Carrier Craft.
The APWU-DDAL first received notice of the Postal Service’s actions from Clerk Craft employees who called about the letters they had received. On November 24, 2008, the APWU-DDAL finally received copies of the letters sent by the Postal Service to the affected employees.
There are currently many non-unit Letter Carriers represented by a different union who are performing Clerk Craft work within the APWU-DDAL bargaining unit in a limited or light duty capacity. These limited and light duty Letter Carriers are performing Clerk Craft work at the same postal facilities where the affected Clerk Craft employees work. Defendant Postal Service is seeking to abolish bargaining unit Clerk Craft work and involuntarily re-assign Clerk Craft employees without first returning these limited and light duty Letter Carriers to their own Craft.
Defendant Postal Service’s conduct is a violation of its National Agreement (NA) with the American Postal Workers Union and Local Memorandum (LM) with the APWU-DDAL. Defendant Postal Service has violated the NA prohibition against using light and/or limited duty Letter Carriers to perform Clerk Craft work, especially when Clerk Craft employees are being excessed and involuntarily reassigned.
And, the Postal Service failed to give the APWU-DDAL advance notice of its intended action (up to six months notice whenever possible) as required by the NA.
The Postal Service’s December 2008 Actions
On December 12 and 15, 2008, the Postal Service sent letters to about an additional 150 APWU-DDAL-represented Clerk Craft employees announcing that they would be involuntarily re-assigned. All or nearly all of these Clerk Craft employees are employed at the George W. Young postal facility in Detroit.
When the Postal Service sent its letters to Clerk Craft employees, it also sent a letter to the APWU-DDAL notifying the Union of the involuntary re-assignments.
Defendant Postal Service’s conduct is a violation of its NA and LM. Under the NA, the Postal Service was required to give the APWU-DDAL advance notice of its intended action (up to six months notice of possible). And, the Postal Service, although justifying its actions on the basis that the affected Clerks are excess to the needs of their section, has provided no support for this justification and has refused to provide information requested by the APWU-DDAL. In December 2008, the APWU-DDAL filed another class action grievance protesting the actions announced by the Postal Service in its December 12 and 15 letters.
COUNT I – ENFORCEMENT OF ARBITRATION AWARD
Plaintiff incorporates by reference the allegations of the preceding paragraphs by reference.
On February 1, 2008, arbitrator Joseph Cannavo issued an Award in a class action grievance protesting the use of Letter Carriers to perform Clerk Craft work. In granting the class action grievance, Arbitrator Cannavo concluded, among other things, that the Postal Service violated the NA “[i]n 2005 when Clerk Craft employees were excessed [and] Limited Duty Carriers were performing Clerk Craft work and were permitted to continue performing such work after the excessing.” Emphasis added.
In addition to a monetary remedy, Arbitrator Cannavo ordered the Postal Service to “cease and desist from using Carrier Craft employees on a daily basis” to perform Clerk Craft work. Emphasis added.
The Postal Service and APWU-DDAL agreed upon the monetary remedy to be paid under the Cannavo Award. The Postal Service has never sued to vacate the Cannavo Award.
The Postal Service’s actions taken in November 2008 are contrary to and in flagrant disregard of the Cannavo Award’s cease and desist remedy.
WHEREFORE, Plaintiff seeks an order which enforces the Award and prevents Defendant Postal Service from excessing and/or involuntarily re-assigning Clerk Craft employees without first returning the limited and light duty Letter Carriers to their own Craft, and grants such other relief, including but not limited to entry of a preliminary and permanent injunction and an award of attorney’s fees and costs, as is deemed appropriate.
COUNT II – INJUNCTION IN AID OF ARBITRATION
Plaintiff incorporates the allegations of the preceding paragraphs by reference.
Plaintiff APWU-DDAL’s December 2008 class action grievances protesting Defendant Postal Service’s planned elimination of Clerk Craft work and involuntary reassignment of Clerk Craft employees are subject to the mandatory grievance and arbitration procedures of the NA and LM.
Plaintiff APWU-DDAL’s December 1, 2008 class action grievance has merit because the NA precludes the use of Letter Carriers to perform Clerk Craft work on a regular basis, particularly at a time when Clerk Craft employees are being excessed and involuntarily re-assigned.
Specifically, under the NA:
Before involuntarily reassigning full-time employees from a section, the following must be completed: …
Return any limited or light duty employees to other Crafts who are temporarily assigned to the affected sections to their respective Crafts. Joint Contract Interpretation Manual, p. 88. Emphasis added.
The APWU-DDAL will prevail on both of its class action grievances because, among other things, the APWU-DDAL was not provided with proper advance notice of the Postal Service’s actions. Under the NA:
When it is proposed to reassign within an installation employees excess to the needs of a section, union notification shall be at the local level (as much as six months in advance when possible) pursuant to Article 12.B.4. Joint Contract Interpretation Manual, p. 88, emphasis added.
Unless an injunction in aid of arbitration is granted, irreparable injury will occur. Even prior to the Postal Service’s actions, unsorted mail sometimes sat for a week or more in overflowing bins on plant floors. In some cases, such mail has been destroyed. The excessing and involuntary re-assignment of hundreds of Clerk Craft employees will exacerbate the problem with mail delays. The delay in delivering time sensitive materials such as legal documents, sales circulars, resumes, bills and medication can cause irreparable injury which cannot later be redressed through a monetary award.
Also, absent preliminary injunctive relief, the contractual rights of the APWU-DDAL and its members will be destroyed or seriously impaired while the class action grievances are processed to arbitration. The APWU-DDAL’s role as bargaining agent is undermined by the Postal Service’s large-scale contractual violations less than a year after the Cannavo Award was issued. And, affected Clerk Craft employees will suffer major disruptions in their personal lives (child care, etc.) caused by involuntary reassignments.
Unless an injunction in aid of arbitration is granted, arbitration will be unable to undo these effects.
If an injunction in aid of arbitration is granted, Defendant Postal Service will merely be required to comply with the NA and LM and will not suffer legally cognizable harm. And, because Clerk Craft employees provide mail processing and other important functions needed by members of the public, a preliminary injunction will serve the public interest.