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Blow Against US Unions

US Supreme Court Deals Blow To Unions

In a ruling that is seen as a blow to unions, the Supreme Court has decided in favor of Glacier Northwest Inc., a concrete company in Washington state, allowing it to pursue a lawsuit against the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. The lawsuit claims that the union is liable for intentional damage to the company's product caused during a strike in August 2017 when drivers walked off the job, leaving wet concrete in their trucks. The company alleges that the strike rendered the concrete useless and seeks damages.

Justice Amy Coney Barrett, writing the majority decision, stated that the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), a federal law protecting union activity, does not protect the union's conduct in this case because it took steps to endanger the company's property instead of taking reasonable precautions to mitigate the risk. The court's ruling allows the company to proceed with its lawsuit in state court.

The dispute revolves around the strike by members of Teamsters Local 174 following failed negotiations over a new collective bargaining agreement. The company claims it suffered losses when the wet concrete was left in the trucks and had to be removed and broken up later, resulting in additional expenses and delays.

The ruling has raised concerns among organized labor advocates, who worry that it could discourage strikes by opening the door for unions to face damages claims for various potential losses suffered by employers due to strike activities. However, some experts suggest that the ruling does not directly threaten the right to strike but leaves open the possibility for unions to be held responsible for product loss caused by actions taken by employers after the union was aware of an impending strike.

Business interests and anti-union groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, supported Glacier Northwest Inc., arguing that the state court's finding conflicted with U.S. Supreme Court precedent, which held that intentional destruction of property cannot be considered a protected activity.

Further details at NBC News