Amicus brief in Glacier Northwest argues “Unions need no further exemptions and special legal privileges” and SCOTUS should “scrutinize” existing ones
Washington, DC (November 7, 2022) – The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation today filed an amicus brief at the United States Supreme Court. The brief argues that the High Court should overturn a Washington Supreme Court decision that created a special exemption for union officials and their “more aggressive” members from liability under state tort law when property destruction and vandalism result from union boss-ordered actions.
The Foundation’s brief was filed in Glacier Northwest Inc. v. International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 174, which deals with a union boss-ordered strike against construction company Glacier Northwest. Glacier Northwest’s attempt to sue the union over property damage caused by strike activities was denied by the Washington Supreme Court. Washington’s highest court accepted Teamsters lawyers’ argument that the National Labor Relations Act’s (NLRA) allowance for union strikes somehow also immunizes unions from liability when strike activities destroy and vandalize property.
The Supreme Court announced last month it would hear arguments in the case. Those arguments haven’t been scheduled yet but are expected to occur in early 2023.
The Foundation provides free legal aid to hundreds of workers every year whose rights have been violated by compulsory unionism abuses, including those that occur during strikes. It contends in the brief that the Washington Supreme Court’s creation of a new “carve-out” in state law for vandalism and property destruction organized by union officials will leave not only employers, but also employees, with no recourse when harmed by such strike violence and mayhem. The Foundation points out that union officials already enjoy a slew of privileges and immunities under state and federal law enjoyed by no other private organization or citizen, and that this power should be pared back instead of expanded.
Foundation: Union Officials’ Enormous Special Legal Privileges Should Not Be Expanded
The Foundation explains in the amicus brief that “states’ interest in protecting life, limb, and private property must be respected under principles of federalism” because federal remedies generally don’t exist for violations of these interests. Far from being a concern only for employers who face union strike efforts, the Foundation argues, employees are often targeted by hostile or violent strike behavior and state courts often are the only forum in which they can receive justice.
“For example, in Clegg v. Powers, employees sought damages in state court for union violence and property damage during a strike,” the brief says. “Cases like Clegg demonstrate that the Court should limit” unions’ ability to dodge liability in state courts, not extend it, says the brief.
The Foundation’s brief then points out that the exemption from liability for torts that Teamsters bosses seek should also be restricted given “the extraordinary privileges and exemptions already granted to unions” by Congress and courts all over the country.
These include, but are not limited to, the ability to perform acts that would be considered extortion if committed by any other private party, pursuant to the controversial 1973 United States v. Enmons Supreme Court decision. Union officials also have the privilege to foist monopoly “representation” over all workers in a workplace regardless of whether they are union members or voted for the union in power. Probably the most abusive union boss privilege of all is the power to force employees in non-Right to Work states to pay union dues or fees just to stay employed, while maintaining monopoly bargaining control in a workplace with no effective term limits.
“This Court should treat unions like all other citizens or entities, clarifying that they can be liable for damages in state courts under ‘the common law rule that a man is held to intend the foreseeable consequences of his conduct,’” the brief concludes.
“Union officials’ theory that they should be off the hook in state court for damaging or vandalizing property is outrageous on its face. The law already has plenty of carve-outs and privileges for union hierarchies that no other private organization or citizen gets to enjoy – least of all the workers union bosses claim to ‘represent,’” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Union officials regularly force millions of workers to pay union fees or be fired, and force their ‘representation’ on millions of workers who bitterly oppose it. The Supreme Court must reject this shocking union ploy for even more coercive powers, and hold the existing set of union boss privileges to much more scrutiny.”
The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation is a nonprofit, charitable organization providing free legal aid to employees whose human or civil rights have been violated by compulsory unionism abuses. The Foundation, which can be contacted toll-free at 1-800-336-3600, assists thousands of employees in about 200 cases nationwide per year.