American Federation of Government Employees, Local 3283 (Union) and United States Department of Defense, Defense Finance and Accounting Service, Cleveland, Ohio (Agency)


66 FLRA No. 129                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              
LOCAL 3283
June 7, 2012
Before the Authority: Carol Waller Pope, Chairman, and
Thomas M. Beck and Ernest DuBester, Members
I.             Statement of the Case
                This matter is before the Authority on exceptions to an award of Arbitrator James B. Dworkin filed by the Union under § 7122(a) of the Federal Service
Labor-Management Relations Statute (the Statute) and part 2425 of the Authority’s Regulations. The Agency filed an untimely opposition to the Union’s exceptions.[1] 
                The Arbitrator found that the grievance was untimely and, therefore, not procedurally arbitrable. For the reasons that follow, we deny the Union’s exceptions.
II.            Background and Arbitrator’s Award
                In May 2010, the Agency informed the Union that it planned to modify employees’ performance standards. See Award at 2, 7. About a month later, the Union requested to bargain over the performance standards. Id. at 8. On June 25, 2010, the Agency asserted to the Union that the matter was not substantively negotiable. Id. The Union responded that day with a threat to file an unfair labor practice charge. See id. Later that day, the Agency replied to the Union, asserting that it had addressed many of the Union’s concerns about the modified standards. Id. The Agency added that it would be “happy to address any [additional] questions or concerns” that the Union might have. Id. (quoting Ex. 3). The Union did not respond to the Agency. See id. 
                On January 6, 2011, the Agency notified employees that it would soon implement the modified standards. See id. at 8-9. In response, on January 21, 2011, the Union filed a grievance, which was unresolved and submitted to arbitration. See id. at 3. 
                The Arbitrator framed the relevant issue as whether the grievance was timely filed.[2] See id. at 2; see also Exceptions at 5. The Arbitrator found that, under the parties’ agreement, a grievance must be filed within ten workdays of the date on which a dispute arises. Award at 7 (citing Article 39, Section 7 of the parties’ agreement). The Arbitrator determined that the parties’ dispute arose “as early as May 13, 2010,” and rejected the Union’s claim that the dispute arose on January 6, 2011, when the Agency notified employees that it would implement the modified standards. Id. at 8-9. In this regard, the Arbitrator explained that the Union was “well aware of [the dispute] many months” before January 6, 2011. Id. at 8-9. The Arbitrator concluded that the grievance was untimely and, therefore, not procedurally arbitrable. Id. at 10.
III.          Preliminary Issue
                The Agency was required to file its opposition with the Authority by April 9, 2012. Order to Show Cause (Order) at 1. The Agency’s opposition is postmarked April 10, 2012. Id. at 2-3. Accordingly, the Authority issued an order to the Agency to show cause why its opposition should not be dismissed as untimely. Id. at 1-2 (citing 5 C.F.R. §§ 2425.3(b), 2429.21(b), 2429.22). In response, the Agency asserts that it submitted the opposition to its mailroom on April 9, 2012, and that the mailroom erroneously postmarked the opposition April 10, 2012. Agency Response to Order to Show Cause (Response) at 1. The Agency requests that the Authority “waive the expiration of the applicable time limit.” Id. at 2. In this regard, the Agency asserts that Authority decisions holding that “internal mail delays” do not justify such waivers are distinguishable, because this case involves a “violation of [the mailroom’s] operating procedures.” Id. at 2-3. The Agency also asserts that the Authority has “found extraordinary circumstances when the postal service err[s].” Id. at 2 (citing AFGE, Local 1770, 64 FLRA 953 (2010) (Local 1770)).