The Supreme Court might soon undo efforts from the most pro-union NLRB in history. The justices will review a 2017 case, Glacier Northwest, Inc. v. International Brotherhood of Teamsters, to determine whether employers can sue to recover economic damages (destruction of property, spoiled products, etc.) caused by strikes. In this case, Glacier financially suffered after losing many truckloads of concrete, only to have the drivers agree to a new contract without much fuss.
Fast forward to 2022, and the court could rule that an employer can settle grievances with unions while bypassing the NLRB and suing in state court. This development, of course, runs counter to the National Labor Relations Act’s articulated right to strike. The outcome of this high court decision could make unions think longer and harder about legal consequences for striking.
This judicial jousting takes place alongside the first anniversary of “Striketober,” which received its label from a handful of heavily reported events that didn’t actually add up to an increase in strikes. Still, the media wanted Striketober to happen, and this fall, only the healthcare industry stands as an example where workers are striking in large numbers. A recent months-long Starbucks strike in Boston looks like a bust with no remarkable results for union members as they returned to work.