The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 8-1 on Thursday that a concrete company can sue its workers for damage they caused during a strike. File Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI | License Photo
June 1 (UPI) -- The Supreme Court dealt a blow to striking workers on Thursday, ruling that companies can sue workers if they believe their activism leads to damages.
The case centered on a concrete company that had sued striking employees after the employees walked out and and left concrete running in trucks. The court ruled 8-1 in favor of Glacier Northwest against the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 174.
Noel Francisco, the attorney representing Glacier, told CBS News that the ruling "vindicates the longstanding principle that federal law does not shield labor unions from tort liability when they intentionally destroy an employer's property. Our client is entitled to just compensation for its property that the union intentionally destroyed."
Glacier had claimed in its lawsuit that the strike was timed deliberately to destroy its "property." The suit was initially dismissed by Washington state court, which said the National Labor Relations Board should handle the dispute. However, the Supreme Court decided to step in.
Justice Amy Coney Barrett ruled that the workers' actions were not protected.
"[B]y 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 said in the majority opinion. "In so doing, they not only destroyed the concrete but also put Glacier's trucks in harm's way."
Justice Kentanji Brown Jackson was the lone dissenter.
Many labor advocates fear that Thursday's decision will make it even harder for workers to organize and strike against their employees.
"The ability to strike has been on the books for nearly 100 years, and it's no coincidence that this ruling is coming at a time when workers across the country are fed up and exercising their rights more and more," Teamsters International president Sean O'Brien said, according to CBS News. "Make no mistake -- this ruling has everything to do with giving companies more power to hobble workers if any attempt is made to fight back against a growing system of corruption."