In 2001, APWU grieved the Postal Service’s assignment of bar code scanning work at the Oakland (CA) Airport Mail Facility . The Postal Service responded that the grievance was not a jurisdictional claim because the assignment was made before April 1992.
In the District Court’s decision:
Because APWU argued the merits of the grievance throughout its presentation, and NPMHU “argued the merits at some length its closing brief, I cannot quibble with the arbitrator’s decision to issue an award on the merits.There are no grounds on which to vacate the arbitrator’s award.”
This is an arbitration case:
Two unions of postal workers – the American Postal Workers Union and the National Postal Mail Handlers Union – disagreed over which union was entitled to perform certain work at a U.S. Postal Service facility in Oakland. The Postal Service assigned the tasks to NPMHU’s mail handlers. According to APWU, that assignment contravened a 1979 Postal Service directive regarding allocation of work. APWU brought the matter to arbitration and prevailed in the arbitration proceeding.
NPMHU then sued in federal court to overturn the arbitrator’s decision. NPMHU claimed, in particular, that the arbitrator erred in finding the dispute arbitrable under the parties’ contract. Applying the extremely deferential standard of review for labor arbitration decisions, the District Court upheld the arbitrator’s decision on arbitrability even though it was, in the court’s words, “probably erroneous.” 578 F. Supp. 2d 160, 162 (D.D.C. 2008). We too acknowledge that the arbitrator probably erred as a matter of contract interpretation. Yet in light of the deference courts must afford to a labor arbitrator’s contract interpretation – including an arbitrator’s decision on arbitrability where, as here, the parties agree to present that issue to the arbitrator – we agree with the District Court that we must uphold the arbitrator’s decision in this case. We therefore affirm the judgment of the District Court.