CalPortland appeals to Supreme Court in Teamsters case decision

Sources: CP Staff; U.S. Supreme Court; Coalition for a Democratic Workplace

CalPortland Co. has petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse the Washington State Supreme Court’s dismissal of a suit in which the cement, aggregate and concrete producer seeks restitution for property damage that International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 174 officers and members caused during commencement of a strike.

Court documents trace an abrupt work stoppage at CalPortland’s Glacier Northwest Duwamish plant outside Seattle in August 2017: Prompted by Teamsters 174 officials, 16 mixer truck drivers ceased work at an early-a.m. target. Loaded trucks—outbound or returned from uncompleted deliveries—were abandoned at the plant, drums turning. Glacier Northwest staff maneuvered over a five-hour period to discharge and contain on site upwards of 150 yards of ready mixed. Beyond lost materials and delayed orders were costs tied to hardened concrete crushing and removal. 

The U.S. Supreme Court petition follows five years of legal action CalPortland pursued through Superior Court of King County, Washington Court of Appeals, and the Washington Supreme Court. It contends that the latter court incorrectly applied National Labor Relations Act protected activity provisions. CalPortland counsel filed the petition on November 1, a month after the Supreme Court granted oral argument in the Glacier Northwest Inc. d/b/a CalPortland v. International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local Union No. 174 decision for the October 2022-June 2023 term. Channeling Washington Supreme Court language, CalPortland attorneys ask the higher court: “Does the National Labor Relations Act impliedly preempt a state tort claim against a union for intentionally destroying an employer’s property in the course of a labor dispute?”

No federal law gives unions or their members such a free pass, according to the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace (CDW), Washington, D.C., one of a handful of organizations to file an amicus brief reinforcing the CalPortland petition. “Unions, like everyone else, need to settle disputes within the confines of the law,” CDW argues. “Without property protections, local communities, workers, and businesses will suffer the collateral damage that inevitably arise as businesses are harmed.”

“Labor unions have been granted broad and unwarranted legal privileges and immunities not held by any other citizen or entity,” adds the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation Inc., Springfield, Va., in its amicus brief. “The Washington Supreme Court has misread this Court’s preemption cases to conjure yet another special privilege only for unions: An exemption from state tort law for wanton property destruction, if the destruction occurs in the context of ‘labor dispute.’ If allowed to stand, this new immunity could deprive parties of the ability to seek compensation from unions that intentionally destroy their property.”

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