Nat'l Labor Relations Bd. v. Wang Theatre, Inc., No. 20-1157

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (1st Circuit)
Writing for the CourtLYNCH, Circuit Judge.
Citation981 F.3d 108
Parties NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS BOARD, Petitioner, v. WANG THEATRE, INC., Respondent.
Docket NumberNo. 20-1157
Decision Date30 November 2020

981 F.3d 108

NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS BOARD, Petitioner,
v.
WANG THEATRE, INC., Respondent.

No. 20-1157

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit.

November 30, 2020


Jared D. Cantor, with whom Usha Dheenan was on brief, for Petitioner.

Arthur Gershon Telegen, with whom Seyfarth Shaw LLP, Boston, MA, was on brief, for Respondent.

Before* Lynch, Circuit Judge, and Saris** , District Judge.

LYNCH, Circuit Judge.

The NLRB petitions for enforcement of its October 30, 2019 order reinstating its November 10, 2016 decision, which found that respondent Wang Theatre, Inc. (WTI) committed labor relations violations by failing to bargain with the Boston Musicians' Association (BMA). We agree with WTI that the Board made errors of law and fact in certifying a bargaining unit which had no employees and deny enforcement of the petition. Because we see no point in remanding, we vacate the Board's October 30, 2019 and November 16, 2016 orders.

I. Background

On January 5, 2016, BMA petitioned the Board to become the union representative for musicians employed by WTI.1 WTI operates the Wang Theatre, part of the Citi Performing Arts Center (or Boch Center) in Boston. BMA petitioned to represent local Boston-area musicians "sourced" by WTI to perform in shows brought to the Wang Theater by independent producers.

On January 12, 2016, WTI submitted a letter to the Regional Director, arguing BMA's petition should be dismissed. It stated, "WTI has not employed any musicians

981 F.3d 110

since 2014." WTI also argued that in any event the producers, not WTI, controlled the musicians' terms of employment, and WTI had no control over the topics over which BMA wished to negotiate.

The NLRB Acting Regional Director held a representation hearing on January 13, 2016. WTI's general manager, Michael Szcepkowski, and BMA's Secretary-Treasurer, Mark Pinto, testified at the hearing and the parties submitted a number of exhibits. The exhibits included a list of the performances at WTI in the two years before the hearing, the number of hours worked by musicians in the past two years, wage scales for sourced musicians, examples of contracts between WTI and show producers, WTI and BMA's collective bargaining agreement which expired in 2007, examples of collective bargaining agreements between other venues and BMA, and a work history report of the work certain musicians performed at WTI. Both parties also submitted post-hearing briefing.

At the hearing, WTI argued again that there were no current employees in the proposed bargaining unit. Szcepkowski stated that in 2014 producers for two travelling Broadway musicals, Annie and White Christmas, asked WTI to source local musicians. WTI recruited eight musicians for the production of Annie and thirteen for White Christmas. In 2015 WTI hosted the traveling Broadway musical Elf, but did not source any musicians. The producers of Elf contracted directly with the American Federation of Musicians to hire local musicians for that production, and WTI had no involvement in that process. Szcepkowski also stated WTI had agreed to host another traveling Broadway musical, The Wizard of Oz, in 2016. The contract was not yet finalized at the time of the hearing, but WTI had as yet received no request to source local musicians for that production either. WTI now informs us that Annie and White Christmas were the last productions to ask it to source musicians. It has not done so in over six years and has no plans to do so in the future.

Szcepkowski also testified about a bargaining agreement between BMA and WTI that was in place between 2004 and 2007. He stated the agreement lapsed because "[WTI] reached a point where ... [it] felt that [it] could not bargain over things that [it] didn't control."

WTI reiterated its arguments in its post-hearing briefing, stating, among other things, "no musicians would be eligible [to vote in a union election] ... under any prior-applied [eligibility] formula."

The Acting Regional Director rejected WTI's objections and ordered a union election. She first found that WTI was the sole employer of the sourced musicians. She accepted that WTI had not sourced local musicians in over a year and found "[WTI] could not predict when local musicians would be hired for a performance at the Wang." In light of these findings, it is uncontested that under the Board's standard Davison-Paxon test for membership in a bargaining unit, WTI is correct that there were no voting-eligible employees in the proposed unit. 185 N.L.R.B. 21 (1970). But the Regional Director instead applied the more expansive Juilliard School test. 208 N.L.R.B. 153 (1974). She stated, "the facts of this case show a ‘special circumstance’ aligned with that of Juilliard School ... [because] [t]he petitioned-for musicians work irregular employment patterns."

Under the Juilliard School test, musicians who performed in the 2014 production of Annie and White Christmas were eligible to vote in the union election for the bargaining unit. Finding that WTI employed

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the sourced musicians -- and that there were current employees in the unit under the expansive Juilliard School standard -- the Board ordered a union election. Any musician "in the unit who worked for [WTI] on two productions for a total of five working days over a one-year period preceding January 22, 2016, or a total of fifteen days over a two-year period preceding January 22, 2016" was eligible to vote.

WTI timely filed a request for review of the Acting Regional Director's decision with the Board. WTI argued again that she erred by certifying a bargaining unit that had no employees. It also challenged her finding that WTI employed the sourced musicians, and stated "there has been no work in the putative unit in over a year." The Board denied WTI's request for review in a one-line order.

While WTI's request for review was pending, BMA was elected union representative for the sourced musicians who worked in the 2014 productions of Annie and White Christmas. After the election it attempted to bargain with WTI. WTI responded that it was "at a total loss as to what we could possibly bargain over at this time. As you know, there has not been a single employee in the unit since 2014. As you also know, the producers have been hiring their own musicians. ... There does not appear to be anything for the BMA and WTI to negotiate about."

BMA then filed a charge with the Board, alleging WTI committed an unfair labor practice under Section 8(a)(1) and (5) by refusing to bargain.2 The Board's general counsel issued a complaint. WTI timely responded, raising the same arguments it presented to the Acting Regional Director at the representation hearing, along with additional arguments that its refusal to bargain was reasonable even if the unit was properly certified.

The general counsel then moved for summary judgment because WTI "admit[ted] its refusal to bargain with [BMA]." The Board granted the general counsel's motion, rejecting WTI's arguments on the grounds that they had been raised and rejected at the representation hearing. Because WTI's refusal was not in dispute, the Board granted the general counsel's motion for summary judgment and ordered WTI to "cease and desist, to bargain on request with the Union, and, if an understanding is reached, to embody the understanding in a signed agreement."

WTI moved for reconsideration. The Board denied this motion because WTI had not shown that one of the limited circumstances where reconsideration is permissible under the NLRB's procedural rules was present. Acting Chairman Miscimarra wrote separately to emphasize the narrow grounds on which the Board's decision rested. He agreed with WTI that there was a "reasonable question regarding whether the Theatre currently employs any musicians." And he stated, "[o]n the one hand ... I agree that the project-by-project employment that often occurs among musicians and other employees in the performing arts warrants specialized evaluation of questions regarding appropriate bargaining units and voter eligibility. Conversely, the Board cannot appropriately conduct an election when the bargaining unit consists of no employees." But because the issues could only be raised at the representation hearing, he concluded, "[a]t this juncture, [WTI's] arguments challenging ‘employer’ status can only legitimately be raised before

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a court of appeals if [WTI] decides to appeal the Board's test-of-certification order."

In 2017, the Board first petitioned this court for an enforcement order. Before we heard argument, however, the Board moved to remand for consideration of whether its then-recent decision in Hy-Brand Industrial Contractors, Ltd., 365 N.L.R.B. No. 156 (2017), changed the standard for determining whether a joint employment relationship existed in this case. We remanded the case. On October 30, 2019, the Board affirmed its original decision and reissued its original cease and desist order. In this second order the Board gave several reasons why the joint employer issue did not change its original analysis and reinstated its original November 10, 2016 order. The Board now petitions a second time for an enforcement order.

II. Discussion

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1 practice notes
  • Nat'l Labor Relations Bd. v. Me. Coast Reg'l Health Facilities, No. 20-1589
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (1st Circuit)
    • May 26, 2021
    ..."[t]he NLRB cannot depart from its own precedent unless it articulates reasons for the departure." NLRB v. Wang Theatre, Inc., 981 F.3d 108, 112 (1st Cir. 2020) (quoting Good Samaritan Med. Ctr. v. NLRB, 858 F.3d 617, 640 (1st Cir. 2017) ). On matters of fact, the Board's findings......
1 cases
  • Nat'l Labor Relations Bd. v. Me. Coast Reg'l Health Facilities, No. 20-1589
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (1st Circuit)
    • May 26, 2021
    ..."[t]he NLRB cannot depart from its own precedent unless it articulates reasons for the departure." NLRB v. Wang Theatre, Inc., 981 F.3d 108, 112 (1st Cir. 2020) (quoting Good Samaritan Med. Ctr. v. NLRB, 858 F.3d 617, 640 (1st Cir. 2017) ). On matters of fact, the Board's findings......

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