The problem of USPS ignoring their settlement agreements is a big one. Courts, like the one below, are mandating that unions take their disputes to arbitration before asking for enforcement in court, even when the dispute has already been settled multiple times! Unions have to take their disputes all the way to arbitration or the courts won’t enforce them. The NLRB has taken the same position. More and more of the grievances I see being filed are asking for enforcement of a previous grievance settlement, such as payment of back pay. It is getting ridiculous as resolutions drag out to a year or more. Extreme cases are taking three years! Employees are growing impatient and angry and union leaders are feeling the heat.
In the case below, NALC Branch #155 (Illinois) filed a lawsuit claiming USPS had continously..
…..failed and refused to provide information requested by Branch 155 in a timely manner so that it may adequately represent its members as required by the National Labor Relations Act of 1935 (“NLRA”).
As a result of Defendant’s continuous and on-going usurpations of the National Agreement, Branch 155 has been forced to file multiple grievances in accordance with
the National Agreement’s grievance procedure as well as repeated unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board, Region 14 (“NLRB”) against the Defendant. These unfair labor practice charges filed with the NLRB have been filed as far back as 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006, and 2010 for violating the collective bargaining
agreement by failing to timely provide requested information.
As a result of Defendant’s continued refusal to abide by the terms and conditions of the National Agreement, not only as against this Plaintiff herein but as against multiple other local unions affiliated with the National Letter Carriers Association across the United States, the General Counsel of the National Labor Relations Board in Washington, D.C., issued Memorandum M 03-18 recognizing the Defendant’s continued refusal to provide information and stated that in the wake of the number of reoccurring cases against the Defendant for failure to provide requested information, “all information requests should receive prompt and responsive replies…”
As a result of the Defendant’s continued refusal to abide by the terms and conditions of Articles 17.3 and 31 of the National Agreement, the memorandums of Vice President of
Labor Relations, John E. Potter and Chief Operating Officer and Executive Vice President (1998) , Patrick R. Donahoe (2002), as well as the covenants agreed to in Memorandum M 03-
18, Plaintiff’s members continues to suffer irreparable harm.
But the court was not persuaded by NALC’s arguments. The court ruled:
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c) permits a party to move for judgment after the complaint and answer have been filed by the parties. See FED. R. CIV. P. 12(c); Buchanan-Moore v. County of Milwaukee, 570 F.3d 824, 827 (7th Cir. 2009). After reviewing the pleadings, the Court finds that Plaintiff has failed to satisfy a condition precedent to filing this action -specifically, it failed to exhaust the grievance and arbitration procedures established in the applicable collective bargaining agreement.1 Plaintiff did not pursue its grievances through to arbitration as required under the agreement, and the Court does not read an implied claim for into the statute governing judicial enforcement, 29 U.S.C. § 185. Plaintiff asks the Court to read the terms of the agreement and consider whether they are reasonable in light of directives issued by Defendant’s officials and manuals promulgated by the parties. But this Court cannot rewrite the parties’ agreement, and under the agreement, Plaintiff is required to arbitrate Defendant’s failure to comply with the settlement agreements.
While the Court does have subject matter jurisdiction over an action seeking judicial enforcement of a contract between the Postal Service and a labor organization, see 39 U.S.C. § 1208, once this Court determines that an issue is arbitrable and, as here, that arbitration procedures were not exhausted, it can go no farther in reviewing the dispute. See generally Niro v. Fearn Int’l Inc., 827 F.2d 173, 175-76 (7th Cir. 1987). Accordingly, Defendant’s motion for judgment on the pleadings (Doc. 30) is GRANTED, and this action is DISMISSED without prejudice to Plaintiff pursuing its claims through the grievance process.
National Association Of Letter Carriers vs United States Postal Service, decided February 8, 2011