On or about 1995 Bob Syvertson, then President of the Montana Postal Workers Union, asked management if all state stewards could do their grievance work on the clock. At the following State Labor Management Meeting this policy was adopted and put to work. A couple years later some of the state officers were having trouble getting this time so back to Labor management we went. This time we had a full blown committee, all state officers, District manager and staff including Labor Relations. Once again they agreed and put it in the minutes. The District manager issued a directive to all Postmasters. Then about a year ago they told us no more that article 17 did not allow state officers to be paid on the clock. Omar Gonzales also told us that we were not entitled to pay at the state level. I then asked Joe Miller to file a grievance stating our long time practice of doing this would have merit. As always Joe wrote a great grievance and “WALLA” at step two we negotiated the following award. I now believe we are the only state organization to have this practice documented and in place using the grievance arbitration system.

Gary Phillippe

President Montana Postal Workers Union


Date: 11/21/2012
Subject: Step 2 Grievance
  Case No.:JM-594570112
  Union No:
  Grievant: Class Action
  Craft: APWU
To:   APWU 



As a final and complete settlement of this matter, and without prejudice to the position of either party in this or any other matter (not to be cited in any other grievance or forum), the following resolution has been entered into by the parties:


Pursuant to the terms and obligations as set forth in Article 15 of the National Agreement, Management and the Union designee met on November 15th, 2012 , Step 2 of the grievance procedure.  The result of this meeting on the above referenced case is as follows: 


Management understands the facts to be:


Since 1997, offices in the former Big Sky District, consisting solely of offices located within the boundaries of the state of Montana, have paid Union Steward time locally.  Work hour transfers have been used to assign the Union time to the proper office.  This agreement was made during a labor management meeting and was agreed to by the APWU State Labor Management Committee.  This committee included the District Manager, the manager of Human Resources and the senior District Labor Relations Specialist.  On September 13th, 2012, the Union Steward in Lewistown MT asked for Union time to investigate potential grievance activity in another office.  The time was approved by management.  The supervisor then informed the Steward that his time would not be transferred out of the office; instead he would be charged with LWOP and would have to be paid by the MPWU.


The Union’s position is as follows:


The Union argues that the practice of paying Stewards locally and then transferring hours has been in place since 1995.  Both Management and the Union were aware and accepting of this practice.  Management cannot mutually agree to a specific policy with the Union and then unilaterally and arbitrarily change and/or discontinue the agreement.  As per the CBA and the JCIM, management is limited to changing past practice particularly when both parties are aware of the practice and have a written agreement, even if that agreement violates the CBA.  This practice has been in place for at least 15 years.  There is clarity and consistency, longevity and repetition.


Remedy Requested:

The Union demands that management comply with its own directive and past practice.  The Union demands that management return to the essence of the agreement and move these hours as appropriate to the affected office.  Return to the practice of allowing state Stewards to be granted Steward time on the clock to work on grievance activity for MPWU represented offices.  Cease and desist from arbitrarily and unilaterally changing these agreements.


Management’s position is as follows:


Management does not dispute the facts of this case.  Managements agrees that local policy cannot be unilaterally and arbitrarily changed and/or discontinued.  The Union has provided evidence that the practice of paying Union stewards on the clock for Steward work performed in an office other than the Steward’s home office has been in place since October 15th, 1997.  This agreement was made between the District Manager, the APWU State President, a District Labor Relations specialist and members of the State Labor Management Committee.


Although the policy in question is in direct contrast with Article 17.3.C, the JCIM clearly states in Article 5 that one of the very definitions of a ‘past practice’ is acceptability:


“The employees and supervisors alike must have knowledge of the particular conduct and   must regard it as the correct and customary means of handling a situation.”


The evidence provided to Management from the Union clearly states that both employees and management have been in complete agreement regarding this practice and that this practice has been know to management for a minimum of 15 years.


It is apparent that the attempt to change this particular practice came about when a new OIC was installed in the Lewistown, MT Post Office.  The JCIM clearly states in Article 5 that ‘A change in local union leadership or the arrival of a new Postmaster or supervisor is not, in itself, sufficient justification to change or terminate a binding past practice.’


However, it must be noted that this policy has always pertained to offices located within the former Big Sky District.  From this point forward this policy will continue to pertain only to offices located within the confines of said former District, consisting of all offices within the boundary of the State of Montana.  This decision may not be cited in any other case outside of the State of Montana.


It is management’s decision that the policy of allowing Union Stewards to work on the clock when performing Union Steward duties for employees of other offices shall continue.   The home office the Union Steward will be responsible for transferring hours to the affected office.  This agreement is to be used only within the boundaries of the State of Montana and may not be cited in any case outside of those boundaries.



The above constitutes a full and complete settlement of the subject case and resolves any and all other issues pertaining thereto.