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Teamsters Local 222 v. Utah Transit Authority

Supreme Court of Utah

July 9, 2018

Teamsters Local 222 and John and Jane Doe Nos. 1-23, Appellees,
v.
Utah Transit Authority, Appellant.

          On Direct Appeal Third District, Salt Lake The Honorable Ryan M. Harris No. 140902884

          Russell T. Monahan, Salt Lake City, for appellees

          Troy L. Booher, Julie J. Nelson, Erin B. Hull, Salt Lake City, for appellant

          Associate Chief Justice Lee authored the opinion of the Court, in which Chief Justice Durrant, Justice Himonas, Justice Pearce, and Justice Petersen joined.

          OPINION

          Lee, Associate Chief Justice

         ¶1 A group of supervisors working for Utah Transit Authority (UTA) coordinated with a labor organization in an effort to unionize. When UTA resisted, the union and supervisors filed an action seeking a declaration of their right to organize. The district court then entered a non-final order concluding that the supervisors had collective bargaining rights under Utah law. Thereafter, however, the supervisors voted not to unionize. That ended the controversy before the district court ever entered a final judgment. And at that point the case became moot. We dismiss the appeal and vacate the district court's judgment on that ground.

          I

         ¶2 UTA is a public transit district organized under the Utah Public Transit District Act, Utah Code sections 17B-2a-801 to -826 (UPTDA). In 2013, UTA employed somewhere between 38 and 41 rail operations supervisors as salaried workers. Then in 2014, UTA changed the supervisors' status to hourly workers. This led some of the supervisors to contact Teamsters Local 222, a labor organization. The supervisors sought to establish Teamsters as their collective bargaining agent.

         ¶3 Before Teamsters could act as the supervisors' agent, it needed approval from a majority of that group. To that end, Teamsters went about collecting "authorization cards" from the supervisors. The union was able to gather twenty-three cards, representing a majority of the supervisors. Teamsters then informed UTA of its majority support and asked the transit district to recognize it as the supervisors' bargaining representative. UTA refused, in part because it believed that the supervisors had no right to organize.

         ¶4 Teamsters and the twenty-three supporting supervisors filed a declaratory judgment action against UTA. They sought an order establishing that the supervisors were an appropriate bargaining unit and an order compelling UTA to bargain with Teamsters.

         ¶5 Teamsters and the supervisors moved for summary judgment, arguing that the UPTDA guaranteed bargaining rights for the supervisors. The issue turned on whether supervisors counted as "employees" under that act. The court granted summary judgment, concluding that the supervisors were "employees" and accordingly had bargaining rights under the UPTDA. The court then ordered a "card check" to verify that Teamsters still had support of a majority of the supervisors. But at this point, Teamsters wasn't able to procure a majority of authorization cards. So it held a secret ballot election in another attempt to establish majority support among the supervisors. Teamsters again came up short. The district court entered its final judgment, stating that Teamsters was not the bargaining representative for UTA.

         ¶6 UTA moved for a new trial on the question whether the rights of "employees" applied to supervisors under the UPTDA. The court denied the motion. UTA then filed this direct appeal.

         II

         ¶7 The central question on the merits of this appeal is a matter of statutory interpretation-of the meaning of the word "employee" under the UPTDA. That question seems straightforward at first glance. But the parties present starkly different answers to it in their briefing. And a resolution of the question presented would require us to untangle a web of interconnected ...


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