NATIONAL NEWS

Supreme Court rules against union in labor dispute involving truck drivers and wet concrete

Jun 1, 2023, 8:54 AM

FILE - The Supreme Court is seen on April 21, 2023, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)Cre...

FILE - The Supreme Court is seen on April 21, 2023, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — In a dispute about the pressure that organized labor can exert during a strike, the Supreme Court ruled Thursday against unionized drivers who walked off the job with their trucks full of wet concrete.

The decision united liberal and conservative justices in labor’s latest loss at the high court. The lone dissenter in the case, Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, said the ruling would hinder the development of labor law and “erode the right to strike.”

Justice Amy Coney Barrett, writing for the majority, said the union failed to take reasonable precautions to protect the company’s concrete when the drivers went on strike. Barrett wrote that the drivers for Washington state-based Glacier Northwest quit work suddenly, putting the company’s property in “foreseeable and imminent danger.”

“The Union’s actions not only resulted in the destruction of all the concrete Glacier had prepared that day; they also posed a risk of foreseeable, aggravated, and imminent harm to Glacier’s trucks,” Barrett wrote in a decision joined by four other justices. Three more justices agreed with the outcome in the case but did not join Barrett’s opinion.

In 2018, the court’s conservative majority rejected a California regulation giving unions access to farm property so they could organize workers.

Justice Samuel Alito wrote in a separate opinion in the Washington state case that the federal National Labor Relations Act protects the right to strike, but with limits. He said it “does not protect striking employees who engage in the type of conduct alleged here.”

In her dissent, Jackson wrote: “Workers are not indentured servants, bound to continue laboring until any planned work stoppage would be as painless as possible for their master.”

This case stemmed from contract negotiations in 2017 between Glacier Northwest and the local Teamsters union, representing the drivers. When negotiations broke down, the union called for a strike. Drivers walked off the job while their trucks were full of concrete, which must be used quickly and can damage the trucks if it’s not.

Glacier says the union timed the strike to create chaos and inflict damage. Glacier not only had to dump the concrete but also pay for the wasted concrete to be broken up and hauled away.

The company sued the union in state court for intentionally damaging its property; the lawsuit was initially dismissed.

The question for the Supreme Court was about how the case should proceed. Glacier said its lawsuit in state court should not have been dismissed at the outset. The union said Glacier’s lawsuit should only be allowed to go forward in state court if the federal National Labor Relations Board first found that the union’s actions were not protected by federal law.

Barrett wrote that because the union did not take reasonable precautions to protect Glacier’s property, the trial court was wrong to think federal law required dismissing the lawsuit. By “reporting for duty and pretending as if they would deliver the concrete, the drivers prompted the creation of the perishable product. Then, they waited to walk off the job until the concrete was mixed and poured in the trucks,” Barrett wrote.

Lawyers for the union had said that in this case the drivers were instructed to be conscientious when they walked off the job, to bring their full trucks back to Glacier’s facility and to leave the trucks’ mixing drums spinning so that the concrete would not immediately begin to harden.

Barrett said that argument wasn’t persuasive. “That the drivers returned the trucks to Glacier’s facility does not do much for the Union — refraining from stealing an employer’s vehicles does not demonstrate that one took reasonable precautions to protect them,” Barrett wrote.

In a statement, Glacier Northwest’s lawyer, Noel Francisco, said the decision “vindicates the longstanding principle that federal law does not shield labor unions … when they intentionally destroy an employer’s property,”

“Our client is entitled to just compensation for its property that the union intentionally destroyed,” he said.

The case is Glacier Northwest v. International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local Union No. 174, 21-1449.

National News

First lady Jill Biden, left, and second gentleman Douglass Emhoff, right, watch as President Joe Bi...

Associated Press

Biden’s decision to drop out crystalized Sunday. His staff knew one minute before the public did

WASHINGTON (AP) — At 1:45 p.m. Sunday, President Joe Biden’s senior staff was notified that he was stepping away from the 2024 race. At 1:46 p.m., that message was made public. It was never Biden’s intention to leave the race: Up until he decided to step aside Sunday, he was all in. His campaign was […]

13 minutes ago

A sign is placed in front of the U.S. Naval Observatory, where Vice President Kamala Harris lives, ...

Associated Press

Democrats are rallying around Harris as she vows to ‘earn and win’ party nomination for president

Democrats quickly rallied around Vice President Kamala Harris as their likely presidential nominee Sunday after President Joe Biden ‘s ground-shaking decision to bow out of the 2024 race. But the fast-moving political situation remained volatile just months before the November election. Shortly after Biden stepped aside he firmly endorsed Harris, who would make history as […]

1 hour ago

Associated Press

Hollywood reacts to Joe Biden exiting the presidential race

Hollywood was quick to react to the news that President Joe Biden was ending his bid for reelection and endorsing Vice President Kamala Harris. Barbra Streisand, a Democratic supporter, wrote Sunday on X that “we should be grateful for his upholding of our democracy.” While many paid tribute to Biden’s presidency, others wondered about the […]

2 hours ago

A Delta Air Lines jet leaves the gate, Friday, July 19, 2024, at Logan International Airport in Bos...

Associated Press

Delta Air Lines says cancellations continue as it tries to restore operations after tech outage

NEW YORK (AP) — Airlines, including Delta Air Lines, continued to struggle to restore operations two days after a faulty software update caused technological havoc worldwide and resulted in several carriers grounding flights. Total cancellations within, into or out of the U.S. on Sunday clocked in at 1,461, according to the latest data from FlightAware. […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

US official says Biden’s meeting with Netanyahu remains on track, despite withdrawal from race

WASHINGTON (AP) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will meet with President Joe Biden at the White House this week as planned, despite Biden’s withdrawal from the presidential race, a person familiar with Biden’s schedule said Sunday. The official, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment publicly, said the exact […]

3 hours ago

FILE - President Joe Biden participates in a briefing in the Oval Office of the White House, Dec. 2...

Associated Press

Biden’s legacy: Far-reaching accomplishments that didn’t translate into political support

WASHINGTON (AP) — Sitting in the Oval Office behind the iconic Resolute desk in 2022, an animated President Joe Biden described the challenge of leading a psychologically traumatized nation. The United States had endured a life-altering pandemic. There was a jarring burst of inflation and now global conflict with Russia invading Ukraine, as well as […]

4 hours ago

Supreme Court rules against union in labor dispute involving truck drivers and wet concrete