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This page is set up to provide updates to Teamsters 117 members who worked at UNFI's warehouse in Tacoma and were unlawfully laid off by the company. Our Union is defending an Arbitration Award that UNFI is challenging in federal court.

Our goal is to fight the Company in court and uphold the Arbitrator's Award that allowed members to transfer to Centralia with the same wages and benefits that they had in Tacoma. When there are developments in the case or other news that impacts Teamster families, we will post it here.

To receive updates via text message, text "Teamsters FUNFI" to 313131. Please understand that the litigation process is a lengthy one and there may be several weeks between updates. If you have questions, please post them in the comments below understanding that our legal team is busy and will answer them when their schedule allows. 

UNFI NEWS TICKER

February 24, 2021
UNFI CHARGE AGAINST 117 DISMISSED!
The Unfair Labor Practice charge that UNFI filed with the NLRB claiming that Arbitrator Duffy’s Arbitration Award violated the National Labor Relations Act was dismissed today by the Acting General Counsel!!!!!

As we have discussed, we are expecting that UNFI will continue to be extremely litigious and continue arguing that President Biden did not have authority to fire former NLRB General Counsel Robb.

In the meantime, we will refocus our energy on getting the stay lifted in the federal case. This is a huge victory…we’ve won rounds one and two and we are committed to fighting and winning the entire fight!

February 2, 2021
Law 360, a media outlet that reports on legal issues, has published a piece about the recent request our Teamsters 117 legal team made to the new Acting General Counsel of the NLRB to withdraw UNFI's complaint against the Union.

You can read the article below:

NLRB Acting GC Asked To Nix Challenge To Transfer Order
By Braden Campbell Law360
(February 1, 2021, 6:12 PM EST) -- Two Washington state Teamsters locals have asked the National Labor Relations Board's acting prosecutor to end a suit greenlighted by fired general counsel Peter Robb that could weaken union contract provisions making employers honor workers' negotiated job terms after transfers.

Teamsters Local 117 and Local 313 on Friday asked acting general counsel Peter Sung Ohr to withdraw a suit accusing them of seeking to make United Natural Foods Inc. discriminate against workers at its new Centralia, Washington, facility by letting workers at its shuttered Tacoma plant transfer in at higher wages per their union contracts.

NLRB prosecutors brought the case in July after UNFI challenged an arbitrator's award letting the Tacoma workers move to the Centralia plant.

"This case involves an attempt to aggressively move the law in a direction favored by general counsel Robb, to the benefit of corporate interests and the detriment of workers," the unions said in a letter to Ohr. The unions also asked the NLRB's Seattle office to push back a March hearing so Ohr can consider their request.

Ohr, a career NLRB staffer, was elevated to acting general counsel on Jan. 25 from his role as head of the agency's Chicago office. He is expected to walk back some legal positions taken by Robb, a former management-side labor attorney whom unions accused of favoring business in his role as the agency's chief prosecutor.

The UNFI case should be on Ohr's radar, the unions said Friday. The dispute dates to February 2019, when the food distributor announced plans to close its warehouses in Tacoma and Portland, Oregon, and operate a larger facility in Centralia, according to a portion of the arbitration award discussing the background of the case.

The unions demanded UNFI move Tacoma workers to the new plant under a contract provision giving workers a right to transfer at their current pay rates and benefits if the company moves its existing facility. The company refused, and the unions grieved the dispute through arbitration. In October 2019, arbitrator Joseph Duffy ruled for the unions, ordering UNFI to allow employees to transfer and reinstate workers already laid off.

UNFI challenged the ruling in two ways, suing to vacate the arbitrator's award in the Western District of Washington and filing charges with the board accusing the unions of meddling at a facility where it doesn't represent workers. The NLRB took up the case, accusing the unions of seeking to make Centralia discriminate by honoring more generous terms for Tacoma transferees, attempting to represent arbitrary bargaining units comprising Tacoma workers, and other alleged violations.

"The theories advanced by former general counsel Robb reflect a radical departure from existing NLRB and federal court authority," the unions said in their letter to Ohr, citing a series of rulings rejecting claims that unions violated the law by enforcing transfer rights in arbitration.

The complaint has also stalled help for about 280 workers who were laid off and not allowed to transfer because the district court has paused the unions' bid to enforce the arbitration award pending an end to the NLRB case, the unions said.

Teamsters Local 117 Secretary-Treasurer John Scearcy defended the arbitration award in a statement.

"The arbitrator's award is sound and upholds strong contract language that was negotiated and agreed to," he said. "This employer's attempts to undermine this award are rooted in greed and with complete disregard for workers' rights and the collective bargaining process."

A UNFI representative did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday.

United Natural Foods Inc. is represented by Philip Miscimarra, Lauren Emery and John Lee of Morgan Lewis & Bockius LLP and Mark Hutcheson and John Hodges-Howell of Davis Wright Tremaine LLP.

International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 117 and Local 313 are represented by Benjamin Berger and Danielle Franco-Malone of Barnard Iglitzin & Lavitt LLP.

The case is International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 117 and Local 313 and United Natural Foods Inc., case number 19-CB-250856, before National Labor Relations Board Region 19.

January, 29, 2021
On Friday, January 29, 2021 we sent the following letter to NLRB Acting General Counsel Ohr to request review and reconsideration:

Dear Acting General Counsel Ohr,

Teamsters Locals 117 and 313 request reconsideration of the decision to issue a complaint in Case 19-CB-250856. As more fully explained in the Unions’ position statements in this matter (enclosed), this case stems from the Unions’ attempt to enforce language in their CBAs providing that if the company moved operations, employees would be allowed to transfer to a new location under the same terms and conditions of employment.

As more fully described in the Union’s position statements and briefing in the related federal court case(attached), the Board has had several occasions to address challenges to attempts to enforce contractual transfer rights like the ones at issue here, on the grounds UNFI advances here. The parties’ summary judgment briefing in Case No. 2:19-CV-01736-RAJ is particularly instructive in showcasing the ways in which the theories advanced by former General Counsel Robb reflect a radical departure from existing NLRB and federal court authority. That briefing walks through NLRB cases considering and rejecting the same legal challenges UNFI advances here (See Unions’ MSJ at pp. 13-14). UNFI’s summary judgment motion and opposition to the Unions’ motion are particularly noteworthy because they showcase the absence of on-point NLRB authority that supports the theories advanced in the Complaint. See Unions’ Response to UNFI’s Motion for Summary Judgment at pp. 12-19, discussing and distinguishing the cases relied upon by UNFI.

The pendency of this unfair labor practice charge against the Unions continues to cause real harm to workers who have been wronged by UNFI. Approximately 280 workers were laid off and denied the opportunity to transfer to the Centralia facility. Some of them have been out of work for almost two years, despite the fact that an arbitrator issued an award in October 2019 finding that UNFI is violating the CBA by denying them the right to transfer at their old rate of wages and benefit levels. A federal judge has rejected UNFI’s argument that the Unions are engaging in any type of representational conduct and has instead held that “the Unions have made no attempt to represent any employees at the Centralia facility,” and instead, “[t]he Unions have argued only that a term within CBAs—to which UNFI and the Tacoma facility employees are parties—provides an explicit extension of contractual rights to covered Tacoma facility employees who move to another location.” However, after Counsel for the General Counsel filed an amicus brief, Judge Jones stayed the federal case, preventing the Unions from being able to take any action to assist their members who are suffering because of UNFI’s blatant disregard of its contractual commitment to allow workers of a facility that closes to transfer.

This case involves an attempt to aggressively move the law in a direction favored by General Counsel Robb, to the benefit of corporate interests and the detriment of workers. Teamsters Local 117 and 313 respectfully request reconsideration of the decision to issue a complaint in this matter. We would welcome the opportunity to discuss the case further, or to address any questions the General Counsel’s office may have about the issues in this case.

Sincerely,
Danielle Franco-Malone & Ben Berger Counsel for Teamsters Locals 117 and 313

We will post an update as soon as we receive a response to our request.

January 21, 2021
Good news! President Biden has fired the anti-worker, anti-Union NLRB General Counsel Peter Robb, and we are waiting to see who will be appointed as acting General Counsel. (See our International Union's statement on the firing here.) This can only improve our chances at the upcoming hearing on the ULP charges scheduled for March 2021.

In case you still had any doubt, this proves that elections really do matter!

December 1, 2020
We will be holding an update meeting this Saturday, December 5 at 10am over Zoom. Please register in advance to attend the meeting. You can register for the meeting here. Our outside legal counsel, together with Local 117 General Counsel Tracey Thompson, will give an update on the status of the litigation, UNFI's Unfair Labor Practice charge, and the judge's recent order. They will also be available to answer your questions.

November 16, 2020
We just heard from Judge Jones that he has granted UNFI’s motion to reconsider his decision not to stay the federal court case pending the outcome of the ULP charges UNFI filed against us. This is an unexpected and extremely disappointing outcome. Our Legal team is considering the strategic value of requesting reconsideration of his decision.

The hearing on the ULP charges is scheduled for March 2021.

We will continue to keep you updated.

November 3, 2020
Our Union's outside legal counsel contacted Judge Jones' chambers and spoke with the clerk about when we could expect the Judge's order on our motion for summary judgement.

We were told that the motion is still pending and that we will be notified as soon as the Judge issues an order. We will communicate any developments with the group immediately upon receipt. 

October 30, 2020
The Union is still waiting for Judge Jones to rule on our motion for summary judgment. We will communicate with you all as soon as that decision comes down.

November 2 will be 45 days from the date the motion was noted for consideration. The local rules and Judge Jones’ chamber rules allow us to make an inquiry at that time. We will follow up on November 2 if we haven't received notification of the judge's decision.

October 6, 2020
On September 18, your Union and UNFI filed their replies to the other party’s Motion for Summary Judgment in the federal court case.

We are now awaiting the Judge’s ruling on the summary judgment motions.  If the Judge rules in the Union’s favor, then it will have determined that UNFI is liable for breaching our CBA. The next phase of the lawsuit would be a determination of the amount of damages UNFI must pay.  

There is no doubt, however, that if the Union wins on liability, UNFI will file an appeal with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Their goal will be to tie up the federal court case while the Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) matters are determined by the NLRB. 

On the ULP side, the National Labor Relations Board’s General Counsel filed an amendment to the relief sought in the Unfair Labor Practice complaint issued by the Board against the Union. The General Counsel now seeks an order to require the Union to withdraw its opposition to UNFI’s efforts to overturn Arbitrator Duffy’s award in federal court. 

Our chances of ultimately prevailing on your behalf directly hinges on whether there is a change in the current Presidential administration. If the members of the NLRB, including the General Counsel, don’t change - and they won’t if we don’t elect a new President - then it is certain that the NLRB will do everything in its power to make sure UNFI wins.

August 26, 2020
On Monday, as ordered by Judge Jones, both UNFI and your Union filed Motions for Summary Judgment in the federal court case.

Additionally, the National Labor Relations Board filed an amicus (friend of the court) brief, urging the Judge to reconsider his ruling denying UNFI’s motion to stay the federal court proceedings pending the outcome of the NLRB proceedings. It is unclear whether the Court will even consider this brief because the court rules don’t specifically allow such amicus briefs during this stage of proceedings. The NLRB’s attempt to intervene in the federal court proceedings demonstrates just how much of an ally the board is to UNFI. Once we know whether Judge Jones will consider the NRLB’s amicus brief, we will update you.

The next step in the Motion for Summary Judgment proceedings before Judge Jones is for each side to file their opposition to the other’s Motion for Summary Judgment. We will provide those to you when they are filed in a few weeks.

July 27, 2020
You can read Federal District Court Judge Richard Jones' Order denying UNFI's motion to stay the proceedings here.

July 24, 2020
Exciting new developments!  The Judge in the federal court case denied UNFI’s motion to stay the proceedings until the NLRB decides the charges UNFI filed against the Union. The Judge said that this matter is contractual and NOT representational, so he has primary jurisdiction to decide whether to uphold or vacate the arbitration award. 

Judge Jones also issued a scheduling order that requires the Union and the Company to file cross-motions for summary judgment by August 20. The motions will be noted for hearing on September 18. 

Here’s the Judge’s docket text:

Docket Text:
SCHEDULING ORDER signed by Judge Richard A. Jones. Having denied Plaintiff's [24] Motion for Temporary Stay Pending Resolution of NLRB Charge, and having considered the parties' [28] Joint Status Report, the Court adopts the parties' agreement to bifurcate this matter with the Court to make a determination on liability and then consider the issue of damages only if liability is determined in favor of the Unions. Deadline to join additional parties is 10/23/2020. On the issue of liability, the parties shall file cross-motions for summary judgment no later than 8/24/2020, opposition briefs shall be filed no later than 9/14/2020, reply briefs shall be filed no later than 9/18/2020, and the cross-motions shall be noted for 9/18/2020. If the Court finds for the Unions on the issue of liability, the Court will set an 120-day deadline for the parties to complete discovery relating to damages, as well as other pretrial deadlines. (VE)

July 10, 2020
As anticipated and discussed in our Zoom meeting on June 20th, we have received the notification from the NLRB that they will be issuing a complaint against the Union based on UNFI’s charges. The complaint will be issued after the Board makes settlement attempts. Once issued, we will file our answer to the complaint and a hearing will be scheduled. We will keep you posted as soon as we have more information.

June 18, 2020
On Saturday, June 20 at 10:30am, we will have an online update meeting from our outside legal counsel on the arbitration. Our Union's attorneys in the case will be available to answer your questions. To attend the meeting, you must register in advance. Please click on the link to register: UNFI Arbitration Discussion – Saturday, June 20 @ 10:30am

May 26, 2020
On Thursday, May 21, our Union's legal team, together with outside legal counsel, had a conference call with the General Counsel of the National Labor Relations Board and the attorney for the NLRB's Division of Advice. On that call, our legal team responded to a series of questions related to the Arbitration Award. You can read the questions and our answers to issues raised on the call in a document prepared by our legal team here.

We will be setting up a meeting on Zoom, an online video conferencing platform, for Union members who have been impacted by the case. In that meeting, you will have the opportunity to discuss issues related to the case with our Union's legal team. As soon as that meeting is scheduled, we will let you know. 

May 16, 2020
On Thursday, May 14, our Union submitted a motion for Judgment on the Pleadings and our Proposed Order, asking the federal judge to uphold our arbitration award. This coming Thursday, May 21, our Union's legal team, supported by outside legal counsel, has a conference call with the General Counsel of the National Labor Relations Board and the attorney for the NLRB's Division of Advice. On that call, we will be discussing UNFI's Unfair Labor Practice charges claiming that the award violated the National Labor Relations Act. We will updated you after our conversation with the NLRB next week.

April 29, 2020
Background: UNFI filed two actions to avoid complying with Arbitrator Duffy’s arbitration award, which determined that Tacoma employees had transfer rights and the right to continue working for the same wages and benefits at the Centralia facility. It filed Unfair Labor Practice charges with the NLRB claiming that the arbitration award violated the National Labor Relations Act. It also filed a federal lawsuit (Case Number: 2:19-cv-01736-RAJ) seeking to overturn the arbitration award. 

Region 19 of the National Labor Relations Board has sent UNFI's unfair labor practice charges to the Division of Advice to decide whether to move forward with the case. 

Meanwhile, UNFI asked the federal judge in the federal case to "stay" (e.g. pause) the federal action while the NLRB case played out. We opposed that motion and are waiting for the judge to rule.

Update: Your Union continues to reach out to the attorneys at the Division of Advice to weigh in at that level but so far have not been able to reach anyone and it is unclear if the Division of Advice's office is open during the COVID-19 crisis.

In the federal court case, we are preparing a motion for summary judgment, asking the federal judge to "confirm" the arbitration award. We plan to have our motion fully prepared and submitted by May 14, 2020. We will update this thread once that motion is filed.

April 2, 2020
In an effort to keep you all updated on the processing of the litigation, we contacted the court for a status update today. The only new information is that the motion for stay that was filed on 1/24/2020 is in Judge Jones' queue. The court was not able to provide a time frame for a decision. As we have shared before, this is a slow legal process that is presumably further delayed by the staffing and priority case load in relation to the COVID-19 crisis. Although this update does not include any major development, we have been asked by the membership and we have committed to provide regular updates no matter how big or small.

March 13, 2020
Due to the coronavirus outbreak, the meeting at our Union Hall in Tukwila on March 21 has been cancelled until further notice. Please stay healthy and safe!

March 5, 2020
As you know, UNFI filed actions in both Federal Court and at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) against the Union to challenge Arbitrator’s Duffy’s award.  In the Federal Court action, UNFI filed a motion to stay (put on hold) those proceedings until the NLRB ruled on their charges. We suspect that the Company's motives for filing the motion to stay are to continue to block your rights under the Award and to slow down the process as much as possible. The judge has not yet ruled on that motion. As soon as we hear from the judge, we will let you know.

At the regional NLRB office (region 19), our Union’s outside legal team filed a supplemental position statement a few weeks ago. Our statement provides a good overview of our main arguments in the case and request that the Board dismiss UNFI's charges. To inform yourself, please take some time to review this document. Since then, the regional office has been unable to make a determination about UNFI’s charges (likely for political reasons) and has submitted the charges to the NLRB General Counsel (a Trump appointee) for “advice”. We suspect the General Counsel's "advice" will be to push these charges to hearing. We are preparing for this outcome. Stay tuned for more information.

February 10, 2020
UNFI has filed a motion to stay proceedings in federal court.  They are asking the Judge to stay (which means stop processing) the proceedings in federal court until the NLRB proceedings are concluded.  We are filing our objection to that motion today, and the hearing on the motion is Friday. 

January 13, 2020
As many of you know, our Union filed and won and Arbitration Award related to the transfer of work to Centralia. Unfortunately, UNFI has refused honor the Arbitration decision and has instead filed appeals with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and in Federal Court. The following updates are related to the litigation over UNFI’s appeal:

UNFI’s Unfair Labor Practice Charges against the Union with the NLRB:
The Union has filed its position statement and exhibits with the NLRB. The NLRB will now consider our position statement before deciding whether to investigate UNFI’s claim.

UNFI’s Appeal of Arbitrator Duffy’s Arbitration Decision to Federal Court:
Our Union has filed its answer to UNFI’s complaint and asserted counterclaims against UNFI for enforcement of the award. Our counterclaims against UNFI are (1) to confirm the award; (2) injunctive relief to enforce the award; and (3) breach of contract. The Court extended UNFI’s time to answer our counterclaims to January 17, 2020.

Although litigation is slow-moving, we are committed to keeping you updated with posts and text alerts as we progress through this process. To receive a text that an update has been posted, please text “Teamsters FUNFI” to 313131. If you have questions, please post them in the comments below understanding that our legal team is busy and will answer them when their schedule allows.

January 3, 2020
As many of you know, our Union filed numerous Unfair Labor Practice charges (ULP’s) with the National Labor Relations Board over the last year alleging that UNFI engaged in interference, disparaging communications, surveillance, unilateral changes and more. Although these charges are unrelated to the Arbitration and the ongoing litigation over the award (appeal), we feel it is important to keep you updated on the progress:

Union’s Unfair Labor Practice charges against UNFI:
The hearing on these charges was scheduled for Tuesday, January 7, 2020. On January 2, 2020, the Labor Board reached a settlement with UNFI, requiring the Company to send a notice posting to current and former Local 117 and 313 members setting forth UNFI’s legal obligations to its employees under the National Labor relations Act.

As mentioned above, UNFI is mandated to mail you a letter setting forth UNFI’s legal obligations to its employees under the National Labor Relations Act. We expect that letter to be mailed out within the next week or two. This letter will not require any further action from you. Although this may seem insignificant, it marks another Teamster win against this employer that couldn’t be possible without the involvement and testimony of many of you.

We have asked our legal team to draft an update related to the litigation over the Arbitration award and the appeal process. We intend on providing that update soon.

December 2019
Teamsters 117 establishes the UNFI Hardship Fund designed to assist members from UNFI's Tacoma facility who are experiencing extreme financial hardship as a result of being unlawfully laid off by UNFI. If you are a UNFI member who worked at the Tacoma facility and you are facing financial hardship, please apply for assistance here.

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October 7, 2019
Arbitrator Joseph Duffy rules unequivocally for the Union stating that members of Teamsters 117 shall be allowed to transfer to Centralia under the same terms and conditions that they have in Tacoma. View the Arbitration Award here.