In an 8-1 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court sides (again) with AGC. A union cannot intentionally destroy an employer’s property in the course of a labor dispute without consequence.
On June 1, the U.S. Supreme Court sided with AGC and its Construction Advocacy Fund-financed legal efforts, finding that a union cannot intentionally destroy an employer’s property in the course of a labor dispute without consequence. AGC—along with other allies—successfully urged the Court to review the case (the Court annually accepts for review fewer than 2% of cases) and to side with the construction employer.
The Court affirmed the principle that strikers must take “reasonable precautions” to protect employer property from “foreseeable, imminent danger” and held that the union’s failure to do so in the case rendered its conduct outside the National Labor Relations Act’s (NLRA) protections. The ruling reverses a State of Washington Supreme Court decision, where the court there decided the federal national NLRA preempted an employer’s state tort claim—seeking the recovery of damages—against the union for damages to company property.
The case arose in the context of collective bargaining negotiations between ready-mix concrete supplier Glacier Northwest and the union that represents its truck driver employees, Teamsters Local 174. The union called a work stoppage one morning just after the mixing trucks were fully loaded for the day and being dispatched for delivery to customers’ construction sites. Ample evidence shows that the union strategically timed the stoppage to cause damage to the trucks and to destroy the material by making it impossible to deliver the concrete before it hardened.
AGC supported Glacier’s petition for U.S. Supreme Court review in an earlier amicus brief jointly submitted with other employer groups in June 2022, and the Court granted review in October 2022.
Supporting Glacier’s arguments on the merits of the case, AGC and other allies filed an amicus brief in November 2022 arguing that the Court should reverse the state court decision because precedent firmly establishes that a union’s intentional destruction of property is not protected by the NLRA and, therefore, preemption does not apply. The brief also argued that the decision unfairly left employers without a remedy for intentional destruction of property, encourages violent unlawful behavior, and harms local communities and workers. As noted above, the Court ruled with Glacier and AGC.
This is the third victory before the Supreme Court during the 2022-2023 term. The Court also recently decided with AGC on limiting federal permitting jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act’s definition of a Waters of the United States (WOTUS) and on a case protecting pre-bid communications between contractors and public owners.
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