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PITTSBURGH METRO AREA POSTAL WORKERS UNION v. USPS

November 17, 1978

PITTSBURGH METRO AREA POSTAL WORKERS UNION, AFL-CIO, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STATES POSTAL SERVICE, Defendant



The opinion of the court was delivered by: SNYDER

The United States Postal Service moves to dismiss the action of the Pittsburgh Metro Area Postal Workers Union (Metro) in which it seeks to enforce a settlement of a labor grievance. The Motion will be granted.

I. BACKGROUND

 There were two disputes between Metro, which represents Pittsburgh area postal workers, and the Postal Service as to where secondary mail in the Pittsburgh Post Office would be distributed, i. e. where mail would be broken down into individual carrier routes. Prior to July 1976, the majority of incoming secondary mail was distributed at the Main Office in Downtown Pittsburgh for 35 branches and stations, while seven other branches and stations distributed their own secondary mail. On July 12, 1976, the secondary distribution for three of these seven stations was transferred to the Main Office. On October 7, 1976, Metro filed a grievance pursuant to the National Agreement between the United States Postal Service and the American Postal Workers Union, et al. (the Agreement), protesting that some secondary mail was still being sent to three of the stations. The dispute was settled prior to final arbitration, as evidenced in a letter written by Frank Buttner, Employee and Labor Relations Director for the Pittsburgh Post Office, to Metro's Business Agent on December 3, 1976, stating, "(t)he amount of mail sent to the stations and branches must be predicated on their capabilities to work this mail without jeopardizing any overtime opportunities for mail processing clerks." The effect was that secondary mail would be sent to stations and branches only after the clerks at the Main Office had been given the opportunity to work maximum overtime. In April of 1978, the Postal Service announced a decision to transfer secondary distribution of two classes of mail, Irregular Parcel Post and First Class Small Parcels and Rolls, to certain stations and branches.

 II. THE CONTENTIONS

 Metro maintains that the new distribution procedure is a violation of the 1976 settlement and asks this Court to enforce the terms of that settlement, and argues that the Postal Service's failure "to abide by the final and binding decision of the grievance settlement procedure of the collective bargaining agreement renders the collective bargaining agreement and its grievance settlement provision a nullity and amounts to a blatant repudiation of the Agreement." (Complaint P 10)

 The Postal Service argues that Metro is a "local" division of the national union, is not a signatory to the national agreement, and "does not have standing" to bring this action. *fn1"

 III. DISCUSSION

 At least two district courts appear to have permitted local branches of the national postal union to bring actions involving the national agreement. American Postal Workers Union, Dallas Area Local v. United States Postal Service, 396 F. Supp. 608 (N.D.Tex.1975); American Postal Workers Union v. United States Postal Service, 356 F. Supp. 335 (E.D.Tex.1972) (Plaintiff was the Tyler, Texas local). In neither case, however, was the question of the local's right to bring the action discussed.

 In District 100, I.A.M. v. Compagnie Nationale Air France, 414 F. Supp. 538 (S.D.N.Y.1976), a district lodge of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers sought to compel the airlines to process a grievance. The Court granted the company's motion to dismiss, stating:

 
"Even though the General Chairman of District 100 is authorized to sign collective bargaining agreements, it is clear that he signs On behalf of the IAM, not District 100. While District 100 may properly provide an authorized representative to handle grievance procedures at particular points on the system, . . . it cannot arrogate to itself the authority to sue as a party to a national labor agreement.
 
Local Union No. 12405, District 50, UMW v. Martin Marietta Corp., 328 F.2d 945 (7th Cir. 1964), Cert. den., 379 U.S. 880, 85 S. Ct. 147, 13 L. Ed. 2d 87 (1965) cited by Air France, is apposite. There, as here, a local union brought suit to enforce provisions of a collective bargaining agreement to which it was not a party. The court affirmed dismissal of the suit on the ground that the corporation agreed to arbitrate disputes only with the bargaining agent and not with individual employees or their Local representative. The court relied on reasoning, applicable here, that the bargaining agent alone must have the power to decide which grievances to pursue so that the interests of All its principals may be best represented."

 414 F. Supp. at 541-2.

 The District Court in BRAC v. REA Express, Inc., 344 F. Supp. 1370 (S.D.N.Y.1972), reached the same conclusion concerning a dispute between the national union (Brotherhood of Railway, Airline and Steamship Clerks) and a local, subordinate unit (National Association of Express General Chairmen) over whether BRAC's International President had the authority to sign an arbitration agreement that was binding on the local organization and did, in fact, lead to an arbitration award. In dismissing the local's suit on behalf of BRAC to impeach the arbitration award, the Court said:

 
"The power to bring suit is one of the most important powers an organization has and must necessarily vest either in the organization's sovereign body or in the individual or group exercising general supervision of the organization. Obviously, it would create a chaotic situation if every subordinate unit were empowered to bring suit on BRAC's behalf without receiving ...

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