WASHINGTON, D.C., June 1, 2023 – Today the Supreme Court issued a decision further weakening the rights of workers to advocate for fair contracts with their employers.
The case Glacier Northwest v. International Brotherhood of Teamsters involved a group of unionized cement truck drivers who initiated a work stoppage as part of their fight for a fair contract. As part of that stoppage, their employer was not able to deliver all of the remaining cement and some of it spoiled. The company sued, arguing that the union could not impose such economic hardship, and even though that’s the entire point of strikes and other workplace actions, the Supreme Court agreed.
Writing for the 8–1 majority, Justice Barrett intervened with the National Labor Relations Board’s conclusion that the strike activity was protected under law, concluding that because the drivers could have done more to spare the concrete, they should have. This decision sends the case back to state court for reconsideration and makes it easier for corporations to sue striking unions for economic losses. Justices Thomas, Gorsuch, and Alito note in concurrences that they likely would have gone further to limit the reach of the National Labor Relations Act. In her lone dissent, Justice Jackson emphasizes the importance of the right to strike and the NLRB’s unique role in resolving such conflicts.
Alliance for Justice President Rakim H.D. Brooks issued the following statement:
“Today, we saw why it was so important to place a public defender on the Supreme Court. Justice Jackson was the only justice who fundamentally understands the purpose of the National Labor Relations Act: to empower everyday people in their quest for fair wages and working conditions. Unions and strikes are essential to that empowerment, but today’s decision leaves workers under a cloud of threatened litigation if employers allege that they destroyed property. ‘The Court falters’ is the least we can say as it has once again handed a victory to the wealthy and powerful at the expense of everybody else.
“We can only be thankful that Justice Thomas — who should no longer even be seated on the bench — did not further imperil the rights of working people. He must resign.”