Arbitrators have recently issued awards in two USPS/APWU cases.
In the first, Arbitrator Stephen Goldberg interpreted the language of the parties' cba that provided for payment of a higher starting salary to certain Postal Service employees "with the concurrence of the Union" when an increase was necessary for recruitment or retention.The dispute arose when the Postal Service approached the Union seeking their concurrence and, according to the Postal Service, the Union made an unrelated demand as a condition of their concurrence. USPS maintained that the Union could only negotiate concerning the amount of the proposed increase. APWU maintained that nothing in the Agreement precluded it from conditioning its concurrence on issues other than those related to the amount of the hourly rate proposed.
After reviewing the language, and the bargaining history, Arbitrator Goldberg reached a conclusion somewhat between the positions taken by the parties. The Arbitrator determined:
Since the disputed language was proposed by the Union to serve Union interests, Union concurrence was not likely to have been viewed by the Union as limited to the narrow question of the amount of the proposed PSE wage increase, but could logically include other matters related to the Postal Service's proposal. Similarly, because the core issue dealt with by the disputed sentence is PSE wage rates, it is wholly unlikely that the Postal Service would have agreed to give the Union a blank check to condition its concurrence on grounds wholly unrelated to the PSE wage rates under consideration. Accordingly, I conclude that the Union may condition its concurrence on a Postal Service proposal to increase PSE wage rates solely upon matters reasonably related to the Postal Service's proposal, including, but not limited to, the amount of the proposed increase.
In the second case, Arbitrator Shyman Das was called upon to interpret language first include in the parties' 2006 Agreement. The issue before Arbitrator Das was whether language referencing a notice requirement for subcontracting decisions made at the "Field level" included run of the mill work contracted at the local level. The Postal Service maintained it did not intend the meaning attributed to the language by the Union. Arbitrator Das rejected this position, concluding:
The record in this case includes Article 32 Due Consideration Worksheets routinely completed
at the local level when a decision is made at that level to contract out what the Postal Service
characterizes as "run of the mill" work. Therefore, even taking the SIAG guidelines into account, the evidence does not support the Postal Service's argument that the Union had reason to know of the interpretation the Postal Service asserts it attached to the term "Field level" in Article 32.1.C during the 2006 negotiations, and, objectively, it must be concluded that the term "Field level" as used in that provision includes local, as well as district and area decision making.
Accordingly, the Union's position in this case that Article 32.1.C requires notification to the local union of decisions to subcontract bargaining unit work at local installations made at the local, as well as district or area, level is sustained.
APWU links to the award of Arbitrator Goldberg here, and the award of Arbitrator Das here.