June 1, 2023
Decided June 1, 2023
Glacier Northwest, Inc. v. International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local Union No. 174, No. 21-1449
Today, the Supreme Court held that the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”) does not preempt state-law tort claims against a union based on the intentional destruction of property as the result of a labor strike.
Background: Section 7 of the NLRA guarantees employees the right to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to bargain collectively, and to engage in other concerted activities for collective-bargaining purposes. 29 U.S.C. § 157. In San Diego Building Trades Council v. Garmon, 359 U.S. 236 (1959), the Supreme Court held that the NLRA preempts certain state tort claims that either conflict with the terms of the NLRA or implicate conduct that the statute “arguably” protects. Id. at 245.
During a collective-bargaining dispute, the employees of a concrete-mixing company, Glacier Northwest, walked off the job after their trucks were loaded with concrete. Some of the concrete hardened and became useless. Glacier sued the union under Washington state law for conversion and trespass to chattels, alleging that the union had timed the strike to destroy company property. The Washington Supreme Court, citing Garmon, held that the NLRA preempted Glacier’s claims.
Issue: Whether the NLRA preempts tort claims against a union for intentionally destroying an employer’s property as the result of a labor strike.
No. The NLRA does not preempt tort claims for intentional destruction of property as the result of a labor strike.
“Because the Union took affirmative steps to endanger Glacier’s property rather than reasonable precautions to mitigate that risk, the NLRA does not arguably protect its conduct.”
Justice Barrett, writing for the Court
What It Means:
The Court’s opinion is available here.
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