In a 7-2 ruling, Supreme Court justices upheld a 2007 federal jury verdict that Teamsters 287, San Jose, Calif., ratified a collective bargaining agreement with ready mixed and aggregate producer Graniterock in early-July 2004
Sources: Granite Rock Co., Watsonville, Calif.; CP staff
In a 7-2 ruling, Supreme Court justices upheld a 2007 federal jury verdict that Teamsters 287, San Jose, Calif., ratified a collective bargaining agreement with ready mixed and aggregate producer Graniterock in early-July 2004. A driversÌ strike that began in June 2004 at a San Jose concrete plant continued into the following month, past an agreed-upon return-to-work date, and spawned July-September work stoppages throughout Graniterock’s northern California materials and roadbuilding operations.
The Teamsters 287 case was heard in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, San Jose. The local, however, prevailed in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, San Francisco, claiming the ratification date was a matter of arbitration versus jury trial. The high court completely rejected the Ninth Circuit’s argument that an arbitrator should decide the issue of whether a contract agreement had been reached, says Graniterock General Counsel Tom Squeri. Without a contract formed, there could not be original authority for any arbitrator to act. Further, the Court dismissed the Union’s argument that Graniterock could be required to submit the matter to an arbitrator under the terms of the very contract that the Union denied had been ratified.
Graniterock sought to enforce its labor contracts which the union had violated, says Bruce Woolpert, president and chief executive officer. During the strike, the Union misleadingly stated publicly that it was embroiled in a labor contract dispute with the Company over health care and other contract terms. In fact, there were no such unsettled contract matters, because a labor contract had been reached and ratified. The actual fact was the Union used its own members in a deliberate scheme to escape financial liability.
Union officials and the International required their members to honor an unlawful strike in the summer of 2004 to apply inappropriate pressure on a business to give up its rights to enforce contract violations, he adds. The Union demanded complete amnesty so it could avoid paying damages from deliberate union-caused violations of multiple labor contracts. There is simply no reason to have a labor contract if the terms and promises in that contract cannot be enforced.
Granite Rock Co. v International Brotherhood of Teamsters et al was one of 75 cases the Supreme Court selected for review in the October 2009 term. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Manufacturers, Associated General Contractors of America, and Center for National Labor Policy submitted amicus curiae briefs with arguments supporting Graniterock. The AFL-CIO submitted an amicus brief supporting IBT.