The case Glacier Northwest, Inc. v. Teamsters Local 174 raised a critical question about whether the National Labor Relations Act preempts a state claim against a union for intentionally destroying employer property during a labor dispute. With help from the Construction Advocacy Fund, AGC obtained a favorable decision from the U.S. Supreme Court on this issue, which has implications for AGC members whose work could be impacted by labor strikes conducted by their own or their contractors’ workforce.
The dispute arose after labor negotiations broke down between concrete supplier Glacier Northwest and the union representing its truck drivers. The union strategically launched a work stoppage just after mixing trucks were loaded for the day and heading out to construction sites, intending to destroy material and damage trucks. Glacier suffered losses and sued the union in state court.
The Washington Supreme Court held the union’s conduct was arguably protected under the NLRA and must be dismissed due to NLRA preemption. The decision left Glacier without any meaningful remedy and created a split among courts addressing the preemption issue.
The company turned to the U.S. Supreme Court and to AGC for help. AGC joined other associations in submitting an amicus brief. In an 8-1 ruling, the Court agreed with AGC’s arguments and affirmed that unions must take “reasonable precautions” to prevent foreseeable damage during strikes or lose NLRA protection. The decision ensures that intentional property destruction during labor disputes carries consequences and underscores the important balance between labor and employer interests.