As background, the Supreme Court held in 1959 (San Diego Building Trades Council v. Garmon) that the NLRB gets first crack at determining whether or not a job action or strike is legally protected under the National Labor Relations Act BEFORE any court action can be taken. The courts are supposed to take a “jurisdictional hiatus” while the NLRB makes its determination. If the NLRB determines that the action is legally protected, that’s the end of the matter. If they determine it is not, then the business can pursue its grievance in court. The reason for this is simple. The members of the NLRB are trained in the specialized area of labor disputes. They adjudicate thousands of cases a year while the judiciary hears only a few. The NLRB has the expertise and experience in the field while the judiciary does not.
In the case before this Court, Glacier Northwest v. Teamsters, contract negotiations had broken down in 2017 after Glacier refused to provide information to the Teamsters they were legally required to provide. The Teamsters called a strike. Glacier is a ready-mix concrete company and, at the time the strike was called, there were 16 trucks that had been loaded with concrete not yet delivered. The company, which had to have known the strike could come at any moment, had made no contingency plans. So, although the striking drivers were careful to leave the mixing drums rotating--thus ensuring that no damage would come to the trucks--the concrete, itself, was ruined.
Glacier sued the Teamsters and, the NLRB having made a preliminary finding that the action was “arguably protected”, the lower court declined to hear the case, citing the 1959 Supreme Court precedent in Garmon.
But the fascist right wing of this Supreme Court has never met a precedent they weren’t willing to rip to shreds in their fervor to return to days when employers could do whatever the fuck they want while workers beg for scraps and starve. Writing for the majority, Amy Coney Barrett (arguably the LEAST qualified person ever nominated to the high Court) chastised the union for damaging both the concrete and the trucks (we’ve already explained that they took care NOT to damage the trucks, but the right will lie their asses off about anything and everything) and, therefore, this action was NOT protected under the NLRA and Glacier’s suit may proceed. Oh, she cries, the financial damage potentially done to the employer. Oh, the humanity. Under the Court’s own precedent in Garmon, this was NOT the Supreme Court’s call to make...not until the NLRB has officially made their final ruling on the matter.
Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson wrote the dissent. "Workers are not indentured servants,” she wrote, "bound to continue laboring until any planned work stoppage would be as painless as possible for their masters. They are employees whose collective and peaceful decision to withhold their labor is protected by the [National Labor Relations Act] even if economic injury results.” Jackson continued, “it is indisputable that workers have a statutory right to strike despite the fact that exercising that right risks economic harm to employers,” adding, “the threat of economic harm posed by the right to strike is a feature, not a bug, of the NLRA. Unions leverage a strike’s economic harm (or the threat of it) into bargaining power, and then wield that power to demand improvement of employees’ wages and working conditions.”
No doubt, fans of the political hack portion of the Court will point to the fact that this decision was 8-1. But the votes of Kagan and Sotomayor were strategic. Three justices--Alito, Thomas and Gorsuch--wanted to go much further and essentially put an end to the NLRB once and for all. It was much more likely that two of the remaining conservatives would have sided with them than with the liberals on the Court, if the liberals did not sign on with the three who favored just gutting precedent “a little” rather than tossing it out entirely. That won’t save us, of course, unless we expand the Court in the very near future; Thomas, Alito and Gorsuch let it be known that they want the case back, should the decision at the lower court favor the workers rather than the business. Like Trump or any other authoritarian power, they believe a result is only legitimate if its the one they want.
And of course we all need to understand why this is so...because no individual, nor even union, can shower these corrupt right wing justices with lavish vacations and trips on yachts and private planes, nor purchase real estate for their relatives or pay college tuition for their kids. Only the obscenely wealthy can do those things. The people of this country are little more than lint in their pockets or gum on the bottom of their shoes. Understand that these criminals despise you and I. We just aren’t rich enough to matter to them.