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APWU Lawsuit Prompts USPS to Postpone MVS Subcontracting in CA

APWU Web News Article #135-09, Nov. 13, 2012

A Nov. 9 hearing in federal court in California has prompted the USPS to postpone subcontracting all Postal Vehicle Service operations in the state until early next year, after arbitration on the matter.

The Postal Service filed a sworn statement with the court stipulating that it would not excess career employees or terminate Postal Support Employees (PSEs) prior to Jan. 26, 2013. The arbitration is scheduled for Nov. 27 and 28, 2012.

The lively hearing, which was attended by APWU members from San Francisco, Oakland, Sacramento, and San Jose, as well as national union officers, was a “clear-cut, first-round win for the APWU,” said Motor Vehicle Service Craft Director Bob Pritchard.

“Our goal was to get our grievance heard by an impartial arbitrator before the USPS began to implement subcontracting across the state,” Pritchard said. “That will now happen.”

A Laughing Matter

The APWU also sought to prevent the USPS from continuing to enter into contracts with private mail haulers prior to Jan. 26. The union asserted that the decision to subcontract the work would be virtually impossible to reverse if the Postal Service were to engage in subcontracting before the union gets a fair chance to compete for the work – even though the APWU expects to show in arbitration that it makes more sense to keep the work in-house.

Acting on behalf of the USPS, the Assistant U.S. Attorney assigned to the case said the Postal Service is not currently negotiating with private carriers or signing contracts with Highway Contract Route providers.  The statement elicited laughter from drivers in the packed courtroom, who believed the assertion was untrue.

The Assistant U.S. Attorney also stipulated that the arbitrator has the authority to issue preliminary injunctive relief to stop the Postal Service from implementing contracting out until after a full hearing and decision on the arbitration case. This means that the union will not have to overcome a procedural hurdle when it tries to persuade the arbitrator to rule that the Postal Service must reconsider its plans and make a decision based on a fair comparison of all reasonable factors, including the union’s position.

The Postal Service also agreed to forego other procedural challenges.

Long Way to Go

The APWU filed the suit [PDF] on Oct. 16, seeking an injunction to prohibit the Postal Service from proceeding on Nov. 17 with plans to replace all postal truck drivers in California with drivers employed by contractors until a decision is rendered in the arbitration case. The union asserted that the plans would have caused “irreparable harm” to affected employees and the APWU.

“Our Collective Bargaining Agreement requires the Postal Service to get input from the APWU before making a decision on whether or not to contract out, and must consider union proposals to avoid subcontracting before making a decision” Pritchard pointed out.

“We still have a long way to go,” he added. “We know the Postal Service is intent on contracting-out PVS operations, but we are pleased with the outcome of the court case.

APWU President Cliff Guffey praised the work of all those involved in the case. “The union’s Motor Vehicle officers at the national, state and local level did an outstanding job, along with the union’s attorneys,” he said.