Glacier v. Teamsters was not a crisis averted but another step in the right’s plan to stifle labor power.

by Veena Dubal, Dissent

On June 1, the Supreme Court issued a significant decision against the labor movement in Glacier Northwest v. Teamsters Local Union No. 174. In an 8–1 split, the Court found that the National Labor Relations Act does not protect striking cement truck drivers from being sued by their employer, who alleges damages for lost cement caused by their work stoppage.

The decision, perhaps by design, has received little public outcry. Some in labor, who had anticipated a worse outcome, even expressed relief. On June 1, SEIU International President Mary Kay Henry tweeted, “We are pleased that today’s decision . . . doesn’t change labor law and leaves the right to strike intact.”

supreme court justices pose for a photo

But the right to strike is not intact in the United States, and arguably, it never has been. Railway and airline workers, for example, must exhaust lengthy and complicated negotiations and mediations before they can engage in a legally protected strike. Other workers, including public sector, agricultural, and domestic workers, as well as independent contractors, have no federally protected right to strike at all. For the private-sector workers who are covered by the National Labor Relations Act, Congress and the courts have, over time, narrowed what constitutes “protected concerted activity.” Some of the most powerful on-the-job tools that workers can use to exert coordinated power in an oppressive workplace—including intermittent strikes, partial strikes, and slowdown strikes—have all been deemed unlawful. Further, federal law bans secondary boycotts, making solidarity actions illegal.

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