The opinion of the court was delivered by: STERN
Plaintiffs are former part-time letter carriers, members of defendant National Association of Letter Carriers ("the Union"), who were discharged when Postal Service change in their hours of employment created a conflict with their full-time jobs. Although an arbitrator found that the change in hours violated the collective bargaining agreement, she upheld the discharges as permissible discipline. The arbitrator's award is binding, barring a showing that the Union violated its duty of fair representation. Because the plaintiffs have not and cannot make such a showing, summary judgment is granted for defendants. The plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment is accordingly denied.
The parties agree on the following relevant facts:
The plaintiffs were part-time letter carriers employed by the Postal Service in Newark, New Jersey. Each had many years of employment unblemished by disciplinary action. Each held another full-time job that ended early enough in the day to allow him to begin work at the Post Office by the starting time of 4:45 P.M.
In the spring of 1982 the Postal Service moved up the starting times for all part-time letter carriers in Newark. Some of the slots were to begin at 4:00 P.M., others at 2:45 P.M. The Postal Service alleges that the earlier times were required for reasons of efficiency and improved delivery, especially of express mail. Plaintiffs allege that the change was made intentionally to force out these employees from their jobs.
As soon as the changes were announced, the Union initiated the grievance procedure, challenging the Postal Service's unilateral action as a violation of the collective bargaining agreement.
All fourteen part-time letter carriers had the right to bid on their preferred new starting times. With their seniority, all plaintiffs would have been able to bid into the 4:00 P.M. time slots. Plaintiffs, however, would not have been able to arrive at either starting time without incurring a conflict with their day jobs.
The plaintiffs asked their local union president whether to bid for the 4:00 P.M. slots. He refused to advise them one way or the other. They then refused to bid, and in late spring of 1982 were assigned to the 2:45 P.M. slots.
Over the course of the summer, plaintiffs were chronically late to work. The Postal Service issued them repeated disciplinary notices. All were grieved by the Union. Finally, in August and September 1982, the plaintiffs were discharged for tardiness. The discharges were also grieved. These grievances were denied at each stage of the grievance procedure established by the collective bargaining agreement. In October and December 1982, the Union appealed the denials to arbitration. However, it agreed with the Postal Service to postpone the arbitration until after a resolution of the contract dispute.
That dispute worked its way slowly through the grievance procedure. At one point, it was remanded to a lower level, where it was again denied.
An arbitration hearing was held on June 3, 1983. The arbitrator issued her opinion five months later, on November 2, 1983. She ruled that the Postal Service's unilateral change in starting times had in fact violated the contract. Retaining jurisdiction, she left the remedy to be determined in the first instance by negotiations between the parties.
No agreement was reached on the proper disposition of plaintiffs' grievances. The Postal Service proposed a return to work without backpay -- it is not clear at what starting time. Plaintiffs ...