Supreme Court Rules 8-1 Against Union Bosses Seeking To Dodge Liability For Property Damage

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James Lynch Contributor
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The Supreme Court ruled 8-1 Thursday against union bosses seeking to avoid liability in state court for deliberately damaging property as part of a strike.

SCOTUS rejected the argument made by the Teamsters unions in Glacier Northwest v. International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 174 that the union should be granted immunity under the National Labor Relations Act (NRLA) from a lawsuit filed by Washington-based concrete company Glacier Northwest. Justice Amy Coney Barrett delivered the opinion of the court and Justice Ketanji Brown-Jackson was the lone dissenter. (RELATED: Supreme Court Rolls Back Biden EPA’s Expansive Water Regulation)

The decision is a victory for right-to-work advocates, who argue for worker freedom from mandatory union dues and other coercive practices. The National Right to Work Foundation filed an amicus brief in the case in support of Glacier Northwest.

“The Supreme Court correctly ruled that union officials should not be granted immunity from state lawsuits over deliberate property damage perpetrated during union strike actions. The issue in Glacier Northwest, however, represents only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to union bosses’ special legal privileges – especially concerning the powers union officials have over rank-and-file workers,” National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix said in a statement.

Glacier sued the Teamsters for an estimated $100,000 in property damage ordered by union officials as part of a 2017 strike. (RELATED: Supreme Court Shields Tech Companies From Liability For Terrorist Content)

During the strike, the union demanded a work stoppage while the company was mixing concrete and loading it onto trucks for deliveries, the SCOTUS decision recounts. Glacier ordered the workers to carry out the deliveries, but the union directed them to ignore the company’s orders, causing 16 drivers to return with fully loaded trucks. The company was faced with an emergency because it could not leave hardening concrete in the trucks and could not dump it in a random location, so Glacier had non-striking employees build special bunkers to offload the concrete without damaging the environment.

The concrete that had already been mixed became useless, and greater damage to the trucks was avoided because of the emergency directives. Washington’s Supreme Court ruled in favor of the workers because of protections by the NLRA, overturning a decision by an appellate court.

SCOTUS previously ruled against the interests of organized labor in the 2018 Janus v. AFSCME case, which prevents public sector unions from handing down compulsory union dues to non-union workers.