Author Topic: Cement-truck drivers went on strike. A lawsuit by their company may pave the way for restricting wor  (Read 401 times)

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Offline Elderberry

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SCOTUSblog by Sharon Block 1/6/2023

Cement-truck drivers went on strike. A lawsuit by their company may pave the way for restricting workers’ rights.

Striketober. Starbucks walkouts. Work stoppages at iconic companies like John Deere, The New York Times, and Kellogg’s. The number of labor disputes resulting in strikes and the attention paid to those strikes has increased over the past few years.  That is why the Supreme Court’s decision to review a basic feature of how the law may or may not interfere in work stoppages is noteworthy.

The case, Glacier Northwest v. International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Local Union 174, will be argued on Tuesday. Here are the facts: Workers who drive cement mixers grew frustrated with the pace of bargaining with their employer, Glacier Northwest, a ready-mix concrete company in Seattle. So the drivers decided to go out on strike. Drivers reported for work and those with early runs had their trucks loaded with cement. At the appointed hour for the onset of the strike, the drivers drove their trucks back to the company’s headquarters and walked off the job. For those whose trucks had already been loaded with cement but who had not yet made deliveries, they left their trucks running so the cement wouldn’t instantly harden inside the trucks’ drums. The company, however, was unable to deliver the cement and some of it hardened, requiring it be destroyed and carted away. The strike lasted one week before the parties reached agreement on a new contract.

The issue in this case revolves around what happened next: Glacier sued the Teamsters Union, which represents the drivers, for “tortious destruction” of the company’s property. Glacier asked a Washington state court to make the Teamsters pay for damage that happened when cement hardened after the strike began. The company alleged that the Teamsters chose to start the strike after cement had been loaded into trucks because it would cost money to deal with undelivered cement. The Washington Supreme Court dismissed the case, finding that it wasn’t appropriate to apply state tort law to a labor dispute covered by a federal law, the National Labor Relations Act.

The Teamsters filed an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board, alleging that Glacier filed the tort action in retaliation for workers striking. The NLRB general counsel issued a complaint, finding merit to the Teamsters’ allegation. That case is still pending at the NLRB.

The NLRB is the entity that determines whether union conduct is protected by federal law or not – that is, whether federal labor law preempts the application of state law to labor disputes. In San Diego Building Trades v. Garmon, the Supreme Court interpreted this preemptive effect broadly, holding that the NLRA precludes application of conflicting or even arguably conflicting state law in order to ensure that labor law applies uniformly to all workers, unions, and employers across the country.   


Offline Kamaji

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As a matter of good conscience, the union should be required to pay for the damage it caused .