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 June 3, 2023

Supreme Court rules against Teamsters union holding them liable for damages from strikes

The Supreme Court ruled that the Teamsters union will be held responsible for damage striking employees did to their employer's property, the Daily Caller reported. The 8-1 decision Thursday further narrows the National Labor Relations Act.

The Teamsters attempted to argue that the 1935 statute bestowed immunity on workers who struck against Glacier Northwest, a concrete company based in Washington State. However, the union intentionally timed a work stoppage to inflict harm on company property.

They planned the strike to occur after the company mixed concrete that would be loaded into trucks and sent off for delivery. Once the product is mixed, it must be promptly used, but the union told workers to refuse even as Glacier demanded they follow through with deliveries.

Sixteen drivers did as their union told them, and Glacier was stuck with concrete still loaded into trucks. This caused a crisis as the cement hardening inside the trucks would ruin the equipment, but it also meant tons of concrete would have to be put somewhere.

Glacier ordered its remaining employees who were not on strike to build bunkers where the concrete could be directed without causing further problems. The product was already ruined, but the company avoided further property and environmental damage with this quick action.

Still, after being left with property damage totaling $100,000 in the 2017 strike, Glacier sued the union. A lower court ruled in favor of Glacier on appeal.

However, Washington's Supreme Court reversed a lower court's ruling in favor of the Teamsters, citing the NLRA as cover. Thankfully, the U.S. Supreme Court disagreed to this obvious injustice.

Justice Amy Coney Barrett wrote the majority opinion in the case Glacier Northwest v. International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 174. The newest judge on the bench, Justice Ketanji Brown-Jackson, was the sole dissenter.

"Far from taking reasonable precautions to mitigate foreseeable danger to Glacier’s property, the Union executed the strike in a manner designed to compromise the safety of Glacier’s trucks and destroy its concrete," Barrett wrote in her opinion, according to the Washington Post. "Such conduct is not ‘arguably protected’ by the NLRA; on the contrary, it goes well beyond the NLRA’s protections."

Two of the three left-leaning justices who typically side with Big Labor agreed with Barrett's contention that intentionally damaging company property meant that the NLRA would not apply. Still, Brown claimed it would "erode the right to strike" in her dissent that was twice as long as Barrett's opinion.

"Workers are not indentured servants, bound to continue laboring until any planned work stoppage would be as painless as possible for their master," the first-term judge wrote. "They are employees whose collective and peaceful decision to withhold their labor is protected by the NLRA even if economic injury results."

Of course, Teamsters General President Sean M. O’Brien also expressed his outrage at the decision to limit workers' power to damage property in the name of a strike. "These corruptible justices should be ashamed of themselves," O'Brien wrote.

He went on to vow that "the Teamsters will strike any employer, when necessary, no matter their size or the depth of their pockets. Unions will never be broken by this Court or any other."

Workers have no right to intentionally cause damage to the company they're striking against. Labor unions have too much power and often attempt to choke companies out of existence with their demands and, in this case, now also with their tactics.

Written By:
Christine Favocci

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