Glacier Nw., Inc. v. Int'l Bhd. of Teamsters Local Union No. 174
|500 P.3d 119
|16 December 2021
|GLACIER NORTHWEST, INC., d/b/a CalPortland, Respondent/Cross Petitioner, v. INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF TEAMSTERS LOCAL UNION NO. 174, Petitioner/Cross Respondent.
|United States State Supreme Court of Washington
Brian P. Lundgren, Jonathan Michael Minear, Jackson Lewis P.C., 520 Pike St. Ste. 2300, Seattle, WA, Joshua Daniel Brittingham, Davis Grimm Payne & Marra, 701 5th Ave. Ste. 3500, Seattle, WA, for Respondent.
Kristina Marie Detwiler, Robblee Detwiler PLLP, 2101 4th Ave. Ste. 1000, Seattle, WA, for Amicus Curiae on behalf of American Federation of Labor & Congress of Industrial Organ.
¶1 This case asks us to decide whether an employer's state tort claims against its truck drivers' union are preempted by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA)1 and whether any claims that are not preempted were properly dismissed below. Glacier Northwest Inc.2 claims the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local Union No. 174 (Local 174) is liable for concrete product loss during a strike and for an alleged misrepresentation by a union representative that Glacier claims interfered with its ability to service a concrete mat pour. The trial court ruled the strike-related claims were preempted by the NLRA and granted summary judgment for Local 174 on the misrepresentation claims. Glacier appealed, and the Court of Appeals reversed on the preemption issue but affirmed the trial court's dismissal of the misrepresentation claims. We granted review and accepted amicus curiae briefing from the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations.
¶2 Today we affirm in part and reverse in part, remanding this case to the trial court with instructions to dismiss Glacier's claims consistent with this opinion. We conclude the NLRA preempts Glacier's tort claims related to the loss of its concrete product because that loss was incidental to a strike arguably protected by federal law. We also affirm the dismissal of Glacier's misrepresentation claims because the union representative's promise of future action was not a statement of existing fact on which those claims can be properly based and because the statement was not a proximate cause of Glacier's losses.
¶3 Glacier is a Washington corporation that sells and delivers ready-mix concrete to businesses in Washington. According to its complaint, Glacier creates custom batches of concrete for each job, mixing various materials to customer specifications. The materials are first mixed in a hopper or a barrel, then moved into a ready-mix truck that continues to mix the materials until the concrete is delivered to the customer. Concrete begins to harden as soon as 20 to 30 minutes after the mixing stops, so Glacier must deliver the concrete on the same day it is mixed or else it becomes useless. And if the concrete remains in the ready-mix trucks long enough, it will eventually harden and damage the truck's revolving drum.
¶4 Glacier employs approximately 80 to 90 truck drivers to deliver concrete, and Local 174 is the exclusive union representative for Glacier's truck drivers in King County. Glacier's lawsuit stems from Local 174's conduct both before and after the ratification of a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between Glacier and Local 174 on August 18, 2017. On August 11, 2017, during negotiations for the new CBA, Glacier truck drivers went on strike by stopping work, and this strike resulted in the loss of some of Glacier's concrete. Just after the CBA was ratified and the strike ended on August 18, 2017, a Local 174 representative allegedly misrepresented whether Glacier drivers would service a job that was rescheduled to August 19 after the August 11 strike. We examine each claim in turn.
¶5 On August 11, 2017, Glacier had a number of scheduled deliveries. Around 7:00 a.m. that morning, drivers at Glacier's Seattle, Kenmore, and Snoqualmie facilities engaged in what Glacier describes as a "sudden cessation of work." Clerk's Papers (CP) at 6. Glacier alleges this work stoppage occurred with truck drivers at every stage of the delivery process, including trucks waiting to be loaded, being initially loaded with concrete, driving en route to delivery sites, and already at sites delivering the concrete. A declaration of Adam Doyle, a dispatch coordinator, stated that drivers were scheduled to start work that day between 2:00 a.m. and 7:00 a.m. After learning of the strike, Doyle announced over the radio that " ‘I've just been informed to advise you that we are obligated to finish any job that we have started.’ " CP at 208. Doyle further explained the normal process for drivers who return their trucks after making a concrete delivery, stating that the driver CP at 208. But on that day, Doyle explained that drivers all brought their trucks back between 7:00 a.m. and 7:45 a.m., and he noted that many of the trucks were left with partial or full loads of concrete. Justin Denison, the ready-mix concrete manager for all facilities in Washington, was present at the Duwamish facility when the strike occurred. He stated that at least 16 drivers returned to the site with trucks fully loaded with concrete. While 7 of these drivers gave Glacier notice of the return of the trucks, 9 drivers left trucks without notice to Glacier.
¶6 Glacier alleges Local 174 had coordinated with truck drivers to purposely time the strike when concrete was being batched and delivered in order to cause destruction of the concrete. Glacier further alleges its drivers and Local 174 were fully aware that the concrete was perishable. As a result, Glacier had to take mitigation measures to dispose of the batched concrete on site through "constructed bunkers" and to clean out the trucks to prevent any damage to the trucks or to its plant, equipment, and wastewater system. CP at 8.3 Glacier alleges the concrete was destroyed when it was left to harden, and Glacier had to hire trucks, break up the concrete, and haul it off-site. Glacier was unable to complete its deliveries that day. None of the trucks carrying the concrete were damaged because Glacier was able to take the concrete out of the trucks before it hardened.
¶7 Based on this conduct, Glacier wrote warning letters to 16 drivers, citing violation of Glacier's work and safety rules. However, Glacier withdrew the letters issued to 7 of the drivers who had given notice of their abandonment or who took steps to avoid damage to the trucks.
¶8 The second set of claims in Glacier's complaint involves a statement by Local 174 Secretary Treasurer Rick Hicks concerning the "Vulcan Project," a construction project in Seattle's South Lake Union for which GLY Construction Inc. was the general contractor. CP at 10. Glacier was scheduled to perform a mat pour at the Vulcan Project on August 12, 2017.4 However, due to the strike on the morning of August 11, Glacier was forced to postpone the mat pour.5 While Glacier rescheduled the mat pour for August 19, it did not schedule drivers for work that day because it was unclear how long the strike and bargaining for the new CBA would last.
¶9 On August 18, Glacier and Local 174 agreed to the terms of the new CBA, which was ratified after a vote by the drivers at approximately 11:00 a.m. The new CBA was retroactive, encompassing the period of August 1, 2017 through July 31, 2021. As the result of the CBA ratification, the strike ended and Local 174 sent out a press release, appearing on Facebook and Local 174's website, stating that the strike was over and the drivers were back to work. In light of the ratification of the agreement, Glacier and GLY discussed scheduling the Vulcan Project mat pour early the next day, Saturday, August 19.
¶10 But there were rumors that drivers would not work on August 19. Because of these rumors, both Glacier and GLY wanted assurances from the union that the mat pour would be serviced if scheduled. At Glacier's request, Ted Herb, GLY president, called Hicks around 12:35 p.m. on August 18 to discuss whether the drivers would be available that night and early the next morning to service the mat pour. Herb alleged that Hicks told him that " ‘[t]he drivers have been instructed to respond to dispatch’ " and that " ‘[w]e have specifically instructed the drivers to respond to dispatch.’ " CP at 1648. After Herb told Glacier of Hicks's assurances, Glacier remained concerned about drivers servicing the mat pour, and it requested that Herb call Hicks again. Herb refused this request, as he was confident in Hicks's response because Hicks had given him the same answer twice. Glacier never spoke directly with Hicks, and Hicks denies making these statements.6
¶11 Glacier and GLY allege they reasonably relied on Hicks's statement that the drivers would service the mat pour to dispel the rumors that drivers were not working that night. Glacier and GLY decided to move forward with the mat pour. Apparently consistent with Glacier's past practice in calling drivers for weekend work, Glacier's dispatch team called drivers before 5:00 p.m. to tell them of their work assignments and that they would be in violation of their contract if they failed to report; Glacier left voice mail recordings for those who did not answer the phone. It also provided a "call-out recording" with start times. Just before the job was due to be serviced that night, however, Glacier found out that not enough drivers were reporting for the mat pour. While 40 to 50 drivers were needed to complete the job, only 22 reported. By 1:00 a.m., only 11 drivers were on-site ready to...
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