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Teamsters Local Union No. 1199 v. Coca-Cola Consolidated, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Eastern Division

December 2, 2019


          Chelsey M. Vascura Magistrate Judge.


          Edmund A. Sargus, Jr. United States District Judge.

         This matter is before the Court on Plaintiffs, Teamsters Local Union No. 1199 ("Plaintiff"), Petition to Compel Arbitration (ECF No. 19) and Defendant's Coca-Cola Consolidated Incorporated ("Defendant"), Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs Complaint (ECF No. 16) and Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs Amended Complaint (ECF No. 22). For the reasons stated herein, Plaintiffs Petition to Compel Arbitration (ECF No. 19) is GRANTED, Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs Complaint is DENIED as MOOT, and Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs Amended Complaint (ECF No. 22) is DENIED. The action is DISMISSED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Background

         Plaintiff is the duly recognized and exclusive bargaining agent for certain employees of Defendant. (Am. Compl. ¶ 1, ECF No. 19.) Since 2016, Defendant has been engaged in the bottling and distributing of soft drinks and other non-alcoholic beverages in a facility located at 5100 Duck Creek Road, Cincinnati, Ohio (the "Duck Creek Facility"). (Id. at ¶ 2.) The Duck Creek Facility, until recently, has housed both production and a warehouse. (Id. at ¶ 10.)

         Defendant was previously known as Coca-Cola Refreshments USA, Inc., and Coca-Cola Enterprises. (Id. at ¶ 8.) Prior to Defendant operating out of the Duck Creek Facility, a series of other companies licensed by Coca-Cola to distribute their products ran the Duck Creek Facility. These other companies also operated out of different facilities. (Id.) Plaintiff, or a predecessor union, has been the duly authorized bargaining representative for production in the Duck Creek Facility, and the preceding facilities, since at least 1965. (Id.)

         At all times relevant to this action Plaintiff and Defendant were parties to a collective bargaining agreement ("CBA") effective from June 1, 2017 to May 31, 2121. (Id. ¶ 6.) In the past, each time anew company took over operating the Duck Creek Facility the employees Plaintiff represents became employees of the new entity. (Id. at ¶ 9.) The same occurred in the preceding facilities. (Id.) Further, at each transition, the CBA was adopted by the new operator. (Id.)

         The CBA includes provisions for wages, benefits, bidding on jobs based on seniority, changing positions, grievances and more. (Id. at ¶ 7.) The CBA also contains a "recognition clause" which states "[t]he Company recognizes the Union as its employees' sole collective bargaining unit agent with respect to the hours of work, wages, and other conditions of employment for all employees employed at its 5100 Duck Creek Road Location ..." (Compl., Ex. A at 2, ECF 1-3, hereinafter "CBA".) This clause has been amended overtime to cover the work and employees at the location the licensed bottler was operating at the time. (Am. Compl. at ¶ 11.) The Duck Creek Facility has been the only location where the employer has conducted any warehouse operations since at least 1991. (Id.) The CBA recognition clause has, thus, referred only to Duck Creek Road since that time. (Id.)

         The CBA also contains an article titled "Grievance and Arbitration Procedure." (CBA at 6-7.) This article explains that the grievance process begins by filing a grievance with the department manager and culminates in arbitration. (Id.) A grievance is defined as "a dispute between the Company and an employee or employees concerning the interpretation or application of [the CBA] arising from an alleged violation of the terms of this agreement." (Id. at 6.)

         In June of 2018, Defendant announced to its employees that it planned to relocate the warehouse operations from the Duck Creek Facility to Erlanger, Kentucky (the "Erlanger Facility.") (Id. at ¶ 13.) The Erlanger Facility is approximately sixteen miles south of the Duck Creek Facility. (Id.) Defendant stated that the production operations would remain at the Duck Creek Facility. (Id.) On July 26, 2019, Defendant told Plaintiffs representatives that at the Erlanger Facility: it did not consider the CBA to apply, the employees had no contractual right to bid for jobs, the wages would be lower, insurance would be offered at a higher cost with lower benefits, and other changes would occur. (Id. at ¶ 18.)

         Plaintiff filed grievances with the department manager on July 24 and 25, 2019, on behalf of its bargaining members, protesting Defendant's refusal to apply the CBA to the Erlanger Facility. (Id. at ¶ 20.) Defendant denied the grievances. (Id. at ¶ 22.) Plaintiff sent notices under the CBA to move the grievances to arbitration. (Id. at ¶ 20.) The parties received a list of arbitrators, but Defendant unequivocally refused to arbitrate the grievances maintaining they were not arbitrable. (Id. a ¶ 22.)

         B. Procedural Background

         On September 3, 2019, Plaintiff filed for emergency injunctive relief asking the Court to require Defendant to recognize the CBA at the Erlanger Facility or delay the move to the Erlanger Facility until the grievances could be arbitrated. (ECF No. 2.) On September 24, 2019, the Court denied the injunctive relief (ECF No. 14). Defendant moved its warehouse operations to the Erlanger Facility on September 30, 2019. (Id. at ¶ 26.)

         On October 3, 2019, Defendant filed a Motion to Dismiss or in the alternative a Motion for Summary Judgment on Plaintiffs request for injunctive relief. (Def s Mot. Dismiss Pl.'s Compl. or Alternative Mot. Summ. J., ECF No. 16.) On November 6, 2019, Plaintiff voluntarily dismissed the claim for injunctive ...

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