News & information

National Arbitration Award Issued on August 6th

In an award issued on August 6, 2018, national arbitrator Stephen Goldberg vacated the Postal Service’s unilateral changes to certain provisions of the Employee and Labor Relations Manual.  These changes would have restricted employees’ right to take union leave without pay (LWOP) to participate in partisan political campaigns.

The decision sustained a national level grievance brought by the APWU.  NALC had also challenged the ELM changes and intervened in the case in support of APWU’s position. 

Under the federal Hatch Act, letter carriers generally have the legal right to participate in partisan political campaigns so long as they are not on active duty, off postal property, and out of uniform.  The ELM changes at issue would have prevented employees from requesting LWOP for union business for the purpose of engaging in such lawful activity. 

The Postal Service’s attempt to change the ELM’s LWOP provisions was a response to an investigation conducted by the Office of Special Counsel, which investigates alleged violations of the Hatch Act.  Specifically, the OSC looked at NALC’s member release program through which approximately 97 NALC members took union business LWOP to participate in campaign activity in support of candidates endorsed by the union.  The members performed typical “get out the vote” activities such as door-to-door canvassing, distribution of literature, telephone calls, and sending post cards to encourage voters to support NALC endorsed candidates for public office. 

In its Report following the investigation, the OSC recognized that “The postal unions and individual employees and members are permitted, and should be encouraged, to maintain PACs, endorse candidates, and enlist union members to support their electoral agendas on their own time.”  However, the Report also concluded that “USPS’s practice of facilitating carrier releases for the union’s political activity resulted in an institutional bias in favor of NALC’s endorsed political candidates which the Hatch Act prohibits.”   

The Postal Service responded to the report by implementing changes in the ELM to restrict employees from using “union business” LWOP to participate in partisan political campaigns.  Arbitrator Goldberg upheld the unions’ position that by acting unilaterally the Postal Service violated Articles 5, 10.2, and 19 of the National Agreement. The arbitrator ordered the Postal Service to rescind the changes and make whole any employees disciplined or whose LWOP requests were denied because they indicated they were requesting “union official” LWOP to engage in partisan political activity.  The arbitrator also stated that any further efforts by the Postal Service to change the ELM or PS Form 3971 must comply with Articles 5, 10.2 and 19 of the Agreement. 

To read the Goldberg Award click here.

NALC continues to discuss issues raised in the OSC Report with the Postal Service. Any agreements or other developments resulting from these discussions will be reported immediately.  In the meantime, NALC members who have any questions regarding participation in political campaigns should contact the Department of Legislative and Political Affairs at NALC Headquarters at 202-393-4695.