In blow to unions, Supreme Court rules company can pursue a strike damage claim

The Supreme Court has ruled in favor of Glacier Northwest Inc, allowing the company to bring a lawsuit against the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. In the 8-1 decision written by Amy Coney Barrett, the court states that the company can pursue its claims against the union in state court. Barrett says that the National Labor Relations Act protects union activity but failed to preserve the union’s conduct in intentionally damaging the companys property.

The ruling has sparked concerns among labor advocates who fear that it could discourage strikes and the ability to seek damages against the unions. Justice Kentanji Brown Jackson dissented, cautioning that the ruling could undermine the right to strike. Meanwhile, Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, typically aligned with liberal perspectives, sided with the conservative justices.

This dispute came from a strike by Teamsters Local 174 after negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement broke down. The company claims that wet concrete in trucks left by the drivers resulted in financial losses and damages. Glacier Northwest Inc. asserts that it lost $100,000, including additional damages, which was a direct result of failing to fulfill a contract on the day of the strike but was able to complete the work the following week.

The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the union in 2021, stating that any concrete loss during the strike was incidental and protected by law. However, the recent Supreme Court ruling in favor of the concrete company has been criticized by labor advocates, with the general president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters condemning the decision as favoring corporations over workers. The ruling may not directly threaten the right to strike. It allows unions to be held liable for product losses resulting from employer actions known by the workers before a possible strike.