The Supreme Court is set to decide if a company can sue a union for damages caused by striking workers
NFIB’s Small Business Legal Center has filed an amicus brief in the case Glacier Northwest, Inc. v International Brotherhood of Teamsters, which will be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court next year. This case will decide whether the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) impliedly preempts a state tort claim against a union for intentionally destroying an employer’s property in the course of a labor dispute, and ultimately sets a precedent for the ability of employers to sue unions for going on strike.
The case originated in 2017 when employees from the building company, Glacier Northwest, went on strike after negotiations over a new union contract hit a stalemate. At the time the strike was called, 43 of Glacier Northwest’s trucks were out for concrete deliveries and returned to the company’s yard. Managers of Glacier Northwest had to dispose of the hardening concrete to avoid damages to 16 of their Ready-Mix trucks. As a result, Glacier issued disciplinary letters to the 16 drivers and sued The International Brotherhood of Teamsters over the wasted concrete.
The Teamsters defended the drivers by pointing out that the trucks had been left running so that Glacier Northwest’s management could dispose of the cement without damage. In response, Glacier Northwest alleged that the 16 drivers left the concrete in the trucks with the intention of damaging the trucks.
The Washington Supreme Court ultimately rejected the lawsuit finding that the NLRA preempts suits of this nature. The court additionally stated, “labor conduct is ‘arguably protected’ under section 7 [of the NLRA] when the party asserting preemption ‘advance[s] an interpretation of the Act that is not plainly contrary to its language and that has not been authoritatively rejected by the courts or the Board.’”
On October 3, 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court accepted Glacier Northwest’s petition for a review of the Washington Supreme Court decision. NFIB’s amicus brief argues that the Supreme Court’s precedent is clear that the NLRA does not immunize the intentional destruction of an employer’s property. NFIB, joined with the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace, Associated Builders and Contractors, Associated General Contractors of America, Independent Electrical Contractors, and others, are in support of the employer, Glacier Northwest.
For more information, or additional questions, you can reach out to NFIB’s Legal center directly @ [email protected] or by calling 202-314-2070.