Glacier concrete co. wins Supreme Court ruling vs. striking truck drivers

Glacier concrete co. wins Supreme Court ruling vs. striking truck drivers

The Supreme Court docket dominated Thursday for a corporation that alleges putting employees conspired to break its property, the newest setback for organized labor on the excessive court docket and one that might make unions extra chargeable for financial losses attributable to work stoppages.

The court docket’s 8-1 opinion was written by Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who stated that the actions of putting truck drivers at Glacier Northwest concrete firm in Washington state weren’t protected by the Nationwide Labor Relations Act, the 1935 statute that governs collective bargaining.

That statute requires unions to take affordable precautions to guard an employer’s property when employees go on strike. On this case, Barrett wrote, “the Union took affirmative steps to hazard Glacier’s property … the NLRA doesn’t arguably shield its conduct.”

Drivers walked off the job at Glacier after their vans had been stuffed with moist concrete, inflicting what Barrett stated was a “mad scramble” to guard the vans and get rid of the quickly hardening materials. She stated the corporate solely created the concrete as a result of the drivers pretended they might ship it.

Two of the court docket’s three liberals, who typically facet with organized labor, agreed with Barrett’s ruling. The third, Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, issued a solo dissent, notable for a first-term member of the court docket.

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Jackson, whose disagreement ran twice so long as the bulk opinion, stated the ruling threatens to “erode the appropriate to strike.” Unions, she wrote, haven’t any obligation to verify an organization won’t endure financial losses when a strike resolution is made.

“Employees usually are not indentured servants, certain to proceed laboring till any deliberate work stoppage could be as painless as attainable for his or her grasp,” Jackson wrote. “They’re staff whose collective and peaceable resolution to withhold their labor is protected by the NLRA even when financial harm outcomes.”

Though Barrett’s opinion occupied floor between Jackson and a broader ruling desired by the court docket’s most conservative justices, the union that represents Glacier employees blasted the choice by what it referred to as the “political hacks on the Supreme Court docket.”

“These corruptible justices must be ashamed of themselves,” Teamsters Common President Sean M. O’Brien stated in a fiery assertion. He vowed that “the Teamsters will strike any employer, when vital, regardless of their dimension or the depth of their pockets. Unions won’t ever be damaged by this Court docket or another.”

The case entails an August 2017 work stoppage at Glacier after negotiations between the corporate and its unionized staff broke down. The corporate had loaded batches of moist concrete into the rotating drums of its vans for supply. However a union consultant advised the drivers out on their rounds to return as an alternative and stroll off the job. That left the corporate’s bosses and non-striking staff to discover a solution to dump the concrete in an environmentally delicate method earlier than it may harden and completely harm the vans.

The corporate says the vans have been saved. It sued the union employees in state court docket for losses associated to the wasted concrete.

Finally, the Washington Supreme Court docket stopped the lawsuit, agreeing with the union that the NLRA and its authority over union exercise took precedence over state court docket claims. In its view, “the NLRA preempts Glacier’s tort claims associated to the lack of its concrete product as a result of that loss was incidental to a strike arguably protected by federal legislation.”

However Barrett wrote that the Nationwide Labor Relations Board has acknowledged that the legislation doesn’t protect putting employees who fail to take “affordable precautions” to “shield their employer’s property from foreseeable, aggravated, and imminent hazard because of the sudden cessation of labor.”

“Removed from taking affordable precautions to mitigate foreseeable hazard to Glacier’s property,” Barrett wrote, “the Union executed the strike in a way designed to compromise the protection of Glacier’s vans and destroy its concrete. Such conduct is just not ‘arguably protected’ by the NLRA; quite the opposite, it goes properly past the NLRA’s protections.”

She famous that the NLRB has discovered prior to now that the act’s protections don’t stop to exist simply because a strike is timed to place stress on the employer — when crops must be picked, for example, or milk and cheese may spoil.

However within the case of the Glacier strike, she wrote, the employees actions “prompted the creation of the perishable product.”

Jackson wrote that the NLRB remains to be investigating that allegation by Glacier, and she or he accused her colleagues of speeding to resolve the case.

“Fortuitously, the pending Board willpower of what truly occurred in reference to this specific strike will set up — as a matter of reality and never mere allegation — what precautions (if any) the drivers truly took and what hurt (if any) the Union’s conduct truly posed to Glacier’s vans,” Jackson wrote.

The court docket has grown more and more conservative in recent times and has dealt blows to organized labor in rulings regarding the unionization of farmworkers and the gathering of union charges. These selections prompted sharper division between the ideological wings of the court docket than Thursday’s resolution.

The case is Glacier Northwest v. Worldwide Brotherhood of Teamsters Native Union No. 174.


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