U.S. Supreme Court Grants Companies the Right to Sue Unions for Intentional Property Damage Resulting from Labor Strikes
On June 1, 2023, the Supreme Court of the United States issued an 8-1 opinion in Glacier Northwest, Inc. v. Teamsters, finding that conduct intentionally undertaken to cause damage to the employer’s property, or the failure to reasonably protect against such foreseeable damage, is not activity that is “arguably protected” under the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”) and that a union can be held liable for the damage caused.
The International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Local 174, represented drivers for Glacier Northwest in its concrete mixing and delivery business. After the collective bargaining agreement expired without a reaching a new agreement, the union called a strike, but waited to commence the strike until after the company filled its trucks with wet concrete. The union then instructed the truck drivers to ignore the company’s orders to deliver the wet concrete, putting the trucks and the concrete in imminent, foreseeable danger of being damaged and lost if the concrete hardened. Several of the union drivers abandoned their trucks without giving Glacier any notice, causing the company to deploy emergency measures to salvage the trucks by dumping—and wasting—the large batches of concrete the company mixed.
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