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Arbitrator Sharnoff Rules on Universal Sorting System (USS)

We are pleased to report that the NPMHU has prevailed in its National RI-399 dispute concerning jurisdictional assignments on the Universal Sorting System or USS.

In an award dated May 24, 2022, National Arbitrator Joseph Sharnoff concluded that the jurisdictional determination originally issued by the Postal Service in 2019 was consistent with the principles of RI-399, and that the Mail Handler Craft is the proper craft for performing all operations on the USS, including the reject keying station. In a lengthy, 82-page decision, the Arbitrator agreed with the arguments presented by the NPMHU and the Postal Service, and rejected each argument put forward by the APWU.

Here are some of the key paragraphs:

The Arbitrator concludes, for the following reasons, that the APWU has failed to meet its heavy burden of proving that the USPS acted improperly and in a manner which has been demonstrated by the protesting Union to have been arbitrary, capricious, unreasonable, and that the craft determination constituted an abuse of the USPS’s discretion with regard to its issuance of the Craft Jurisdiction Determination letter for the USS, dated July 12, 2019, in favor of the Mail Handler Craft for all positions on the USS, including the employees performing the dumping, singulating, keying, and removing/sweeping of parcels/packages from the USS, with the exception of the staffing of the “Scan Where You Band” operation when present, which work was awarded to the Clerk Craft, with allied work on that operation assigned to the Mail Handler Craft.

* * *

The Arbitrator, based on the above, finds that the USPS has demonstrated that the USPS, in evaluating relevant factors in the formulation of the craft determination for the USS, found highly significant that the USS was intended and designed for the purpose of processing NMOs, i.e., parcels/packages which could not be processed on other machines, such as the HSUS or LCUS. The Arbitrator recognizes, as did these USPS officials, that there remain some NMOs which exceed the dimensions of parcels/packages which can be processed on the USS and which, therefore, must be processed manually and that a significant amount of the parcels/packages processed on the USS includes priority mail and other smaller parcels which could be processed on the other machines but are dumped onto the USS and processed together with the larger NMOs which the USS was designed and intended to process.

The Arbitrator notes that, in the Opinion and Award of Arbitrator Howard Gamser, American Postal Workers Union, AFL-CIO, and National Post Office, Mail Handlers, Watchmen, Messengers, and Group Leaders Division of the Laborers International Union of North America, AFL-CIO, Case No. AD-NAT- 1311, dated October 13, 1981, Arbitrator Gamser denied claims by the APWU regarding the assignment by the USPS of outside parcels and NMOs to the Mail Handler Craft. This Arbitrator notes that Arbitrator Gamser stated, with regard to the determination by the USPS in favor of the Mail Handler Craft as the primary craft for Function 4 or Operation 100: “manual distribution of parcel post, without scheme knowledge”. This Arbitrator notes that Arbitrator Gamser stated: “[i]n the past, it is true, much of the parcel post operation was worked by Clerks.” Arbitrator Gamser stated, “[w]ithout scheme knowledge presently being required, the rational[e] for making [the parcel post operation] a primary clerk assignment no longer exists.” Arbitrator Gamser concluded that the evidence presented did not support a finding of a national practice. Arbitrator Gamser also found, with respect to the handling of non-machinable outsides, that such packages, which are too large, bulky or heavy to be processed by machine:

. . . are distributed, at present, through Bulk Mail Centers. The present method employed for their distribution does not require nor employ scheme knowledge. The testimony did indicate that such ‘parcels’ are brought to the distribution point by Mail Handlers and they are physically taken away by Mail Handlers. Requiring the intervention of a Clerk to direct the flow of such NMOs would interrupt the integration of such operations which may be achieved by having the same individuals handle the whole process of non-scheme NMO sortation.

Finally, this USS Award by Arbitrator Sharnoff contains several other rulings that should prove useful in future jurisdictional disputes. For example, the award contains extensive comments on the keying function performed by Mail Handler employees for rejected parcels on the USS. Similarly, the award concludes that the placement of parcels from the USS into appropriate containers matching the Zip Codes on each parcel – when completed by Mail Handlers without exercising any scheme knowledge – is appropriate sweeping of the USS that was appropriately assigned to the Mail Handler craft.

Attached is a full copy of the Sharnoff Award on USS jurisdiction.

Please disseminate this information as widely as you deem appropriate, and please do not hesitate to contact the National Office should you have any questions.

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