Final and Binding?

May 20, 2024

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Article 15.5.A.6 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) reads, “All decisions of an arbitrator will be final and binding.” Too often, when an arbitration decision is rendered, many union members and officers feel that the USPS selectively chooses which awards to comply with when they lose a grievance. Conversely, when the union loses a grievance, the issue is considered resolved.

Postal Service officials at the highest level have issued instructions to their subordinates, reaffirming the contractual language that “All decisions of an arbitrator will be final and binding.” However, every day throughout the organization, arbitration decisions and grievance settlements, at every level of the grievance procedure, are continually ignored by management. The MVS Division fi led a Complaint to Confirm and Enforce Labor Arbitration Award in the US District Court of Washington, DC on Feb. 14, 2024.

The union seeks an order to enforce the final and binding award issued by Arbitrator Reeves on Aug. 15, 2022, remedying a dispute that has been ongoing for 17 years. This dispute occurred at the Denver Bulk Mail Center (BMC), where a private Postal Service contractor had an accident and failed to follow proper procedures for loading and unloading. The union alleged that the USPS violated the CBA by not providing a safe workplace. Four different arbitration decisions since 2007 have instructed the employer to take certain safety measures to ensure safe conditions in the yard, bringing the parties to the U.S. Circuit Court for compliance.

Prior to the Drop Shipment incentives in the 1990s and 2000s, which gave mailers a deeper discount for bringing their mail (loads) directly to the docks, the spotter drivers at the BMC Network Distribution Center (NDC) were the drivers who moved the mail from the yard to the docks. Many locations had safety issues and violations that led to disputes being fi led and arbitration decisions being issued, mandating safe working conditions in the yard.

In the award, Arbitrator Reeves noted that “As USPS representatives John Potter (1998) and Patrick Donohoe (2002) emphasized, ‘Compliance is not an option but a requirement.’” Donohoe specifically stated, “No manager or supervisor has the authority to ignore or override an arbitrator’s award or a signed grievance settlement.” (Reeves Award Ex A, at 13.) Over 25 years after these instructions from Postmaster Generals, management continues to selectively pick and choose what they want to comply with.

Next Generation Delivery Vehicle Training Curriculum

We have reported multiple updates in previous articles regarding the new vehicles coming to a Vehicle Maintenance Facility (VMF) near you. We recently attended a meeting with USPS Fleet Management and National Career Employee Development (NCED) Trainers/instructors to review training plans and provide feedback to Oshkosh, the manufacturer of the Next Generation Delivery Vehicle (NGDV). During the review, we identified some discrepancies in the training material; however, those discrepancies were corrected by the manufacturer. Overall, the training material seems adequate. During the discussions with the manufacturer, essential tools and equipment were also discussed, with the Postal Service agreeing to purchase the equipment required to maintain this new fleet. The Postal Service has also created four new instructor positions for fleet training, all of which will be new to the process. The availability and quality of training remain major issues for the union. The initial deployment of the NGDV is rapidly approaching, and the training of our VMF staff will be in sequence with the deployment of those vehicles; however, the vehicles will not appear everywhere at once. While we were at NCED doing these reviews, we were able to see firsthand the new VMF training facility. Although the facility is not fully furnished yet, the VMF once again has a home for all vehicle training. This new facility should provide a positive learning environment. ■

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