AGC Asks Supreme Court to Review State Court Decision Permitting Union Destruction of Property

AGC of America and five other employer groups jointly submitted an amicus brief at the U.S. Supreme Court on June 15 in support of a request for review of a Washington Supreme Court decision that prevents a company from recovering damages from a union that sanctioned destruction of company property.

The issue in the case, Glacier Northwest, Inc. v. International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local Union No. 174, is whether the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) preempts an employer’s state tort claim against a union for intentionally destroying the employer’s property in the course of a labor dispute. 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.

The company suffered losses and sued the union in state court. The case made its way up the state’s highest court, the Washington Supreme Court. The court dismissed the lawsuit on the basis of NLRA preemption, finding that the union’s conduct was arguably protected concerted activity under the federal labor law. The decision left Glacier Northwest without any meaningful remedy, because the National Labor Relations Board is not authorized to award damages for such losses. It also created a split among courts as to whether preemption applies in such situations.

Glacier is now petitioning the U.S. Supreme Court to review the state court’s decision. AGC’s amicus brief supports that petition, arguing that the Court should review the 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 further argues that the decision unfairly strips businesses of the ability to protect their property rights, encourages unscrupulous and unlawful behavior, and will harm local communities and workers.

AGC expects to know by early October whether the Court will grant the petition for review.

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