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CC1 Limited Partnership v. National Labor Relations Board

United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit

August 3, 2018

CC1 Limited Partnership, doing business as Coca ColaPuerto Rico Bottlers, Petitioner
v.
National Labor Relations Board, Respondent

          Argued February 8, 2018

          On Petition for Review and Cross-Application for Enforcement of an Order of the National Labor Relations Board

          Néstor M. Méndez-Gómez argued the cause for petitioner. With him on the briefs were María D. Trelles Hernández and Jason R. Aguiló Suro. Carlos Concepción entered an appearance.

          Jeffrey W. Burritt, Attorney, National Labor Relations Board, argued the cause for respondent. With him on the brief were Richard F. Griffin, Jr., General Counsel, John H. Ferguson, Associate General Counsel, Linda Dreeben, Deputy Associate General Counsel, and Usha Dheenan, Supervisory Attorney.

          Before: Rogers, Griffith, and Srinivasan, Circuit Judges.

          OPINION

          GRIFFITH, CIRCUIT JUDGE

         The National Labor Relations Board ("Board") determined that CC1 Limited Partnership ("CC1") unlawfully fired several employees who had engaged in work stoppages. Although we agree with the Board that there was substantial evidence that one of the discharged employees played no part in a work stoppage, we remand to the Board for further explanation its conclusion that the later wildcat strike was protected activity. We also dismiss additional claims CC1 makes but failed to properly preserve for our review.

         I

         A

         CC1 operates a bottling plant under the name of Coca Cola Puerto Rico Bottlers in Cayey, Puerto Rico. Its warehouse employees are represented by the Union De Tronquistas De Puerto Rico, Local 901, International Brotherhood of Teamsters (the "Union"). Until October 2008, José Adrián López was the Union's chief negotiator with CC1 and the principal representative of the employees. Employees Miguel Colón, Carlos Rivera, Francisco Marrero, Romián Serrano, and Félix Rivera were elected to participate in negotiations on the Union's behalf as shop stewards. The collective-bargaining agreement that had been in place between CC1 and the Union since 2003 expired on July 31, 2008.

         During the afternoon of September 9, 2008, CC1 and López met to negotiate a new agreement. López planned to share the status of the negotiations at an 8:30 p.m. meeting in CC1's cafeteria with CC1 employees who worked the late shift. When López arrived at the plant that night, the security guard tried to block his entrance. Over the guard's protests, López entered the plant anyway and held the meeting. During the meeting, a CC1 supervisor interrupted López and told him to leave the plant. López refused, and the two argued. Eventually, the supervisor left the cafeteria to call security, and López led the group of employees to the plant's warehouse to continue the meeting. The shop stewards on site at the time encouraged other employees to abandon their workstations and follow López.

         At 8:45 p.m., Colón arrived at the plant to attend the meeting in the cafeteria with López. By that time, the meeting had moved to the warehouse. By 9:00 p.m., Colón joined the meeting at the warehouse, where he found López and about ninety employees. Soon after, police called by CC1's security came, and López told the employees to return to work. All in all, the work stoppage caused by López's meeting cost the company two hours of work from the employees who attended.

         On the next day, CC1 suspended Colón and the other shop stewards. According to the letter each received from the company, they were suspended for "invading private property, encouraging others to abandon their job, verbally abusing the supervisors and intentionally paralyzing the production line" the night before. App'x 369. In response, the Union called a meeting at which the CC1 employees unanimously agreed to strike unless management agreed to three demands: (1) reinstate the suspended shop stewards; (2) forgo filing any charges against the Union based on the work stoppage; and (3) return to the table to negotiate a new collective-bargaining agreement. The next day, a Union officer requested strike assistance from national headquarters.

         One month later, the Union had not yet met with CC1 negotiators or planned a strike. On October 9, Colón and the other shop stewards circulated a flyer announcing a meeting on October 12 to discuss a strike. But the meeting was not authorized by the Union. Upon seeing the flyer, one Union official asked Colón not to "divide the membership." Another Union representative suggested to him that only a strike would ensure reinstatement of the shop stewards. On October 10, CC1 discharged the suspended shop stewards. Two days later at the October 12 meeting called by Colón and the other shop stewards, employees signed a petition authorizing a strike unless CC1 agreed to the Union's demands. But the Union had no part in the meeting. No Union official attended, and the Union never responded to Colón's list of employees who had signed the strike petition.

         On October 14, the national headquarters approved the Union's request to provide assistance in a strike. The next day, the Union wrote CC1 to demand that negotiations resume. CC1 agreed, but the Union never replied.

         On October 19, the shop stewards met at Colón's home to prepare to strike. From October 20 until October 22, more than 100 CC1 employees went on strike. Many of them used picket signs and loudspeakers to protest the company's treatment of López and the firing of the shop stewards. They also ...


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