Victory in Puerto Rico

April 28, 2010: More than 34 Teamsters in Puerto Rico have won justice after they were illegally fired for striking to defend their union rights at Coca Cola. And Teamsters Local 901 has been ordered to reinstate three reform leaders who were illegally banned from union membership.

When Local 901 members at Coca Cola in Puerto Rico went on strike, the company retaliated and so did their own union officers. More than three dozen Teamsters were fired.

Three reform leaders, who did not even work at Coke, were expelled from the union on trumped up charges of organizing an illegal strike.

Now Teamster solidarity and legal action by TDU has delivered justice in Puerto Rico.

The National Labor Relations Board ruled that Coca-Cola illegally fired 34 workers for participating in a strike that was “caused by the unfair labor practices of the employer.” The company has been ordered to purge all discipline and pay these Teamsters full backpay.

The decision also delivered justice for three reform leaders who were tossed out of their union after they supported their striking brothers and sisters at Coke.

The NLRB administrative law judge blasted Local 901 officials for expelling Migdalia Magriz, Mara Quiara, and Silvia Rivera, ruling that the sanctions against them were retaliatory and occurred “because they comprised a slate of candidates that opposed the slate favored by Local 901” in the last union election.

In a related case, the Department of Labor is suing Local 901 officials for rigging the local union election in their favor. The DOL is seeking a supervised rerun election.

The NLRB ordered Local 901 to immediately rescind $10,000 fines levied against the reform candidates and to “reinstate them to full membership in the Union including their Shop Steward positions.”

The decision is an embarrassment to the Hoffa administration which refused to issue a stay of effectiveness on the expulsions while they were being appealed. When the NLRB delivers Teamsters more justice than we get from our own union, there’s a problem.

In a setback, the terminations of four shop stewards at Coke were upheld by the judge. A fifth steward won his job back with full back pay.

The members in the case are represented by attorneys Linda Backiel of Puerto Rico and TDU legal counsel Barbara Harvey. Coca Cola and Local 901 officials may appeal the decision, to delay justice.

“We dedicate this victory to the members who always believed in us and who stood with us,” said Migdalia Magriz. “We will keep organizing to return Local 901 to the members.”

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