John Becker on National Labor Issues
Sandulli Grace attorney John Becker is quoted extensively in an article published June 12, 2023 in Salon, a national publication. The article focuses on labor law opinions issued by the most recent appointee to the U.S. Supreme Court, Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson.
In a recent decision in a case called Glacier Northwest v. Teamsters, the Supreme Court, by an 8-1 majority, allowed a concrete delivery company to sue the Teamsters Union for damages when its drivers went on strike. Even though the drivers had left their delivery drums rolling when they walked off the job so that the concrete would not harden, the Court allowed the lawsuit to go forward.
As the sole dissenting judge, Jackson advocated for adherence to court precedent. Historically, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), not the courts, has overseen issues between private sector unions and employers. While the court sided with the employer, it did not, as many had feared, completely overrule precedent. Despite losing the case, unions were a bit heartened by the narrowness of the decision.
As the sole dissenting voice, Justice Jackson wrote:
“Workers are not indentured servants, bound to continue laboring until any planned work stoppage would be as painless as possible for their master. They are employees whose collective and peaceful decision to withhold their labor is protected by the NLRA [federal labor law] even if economic injury results.”
Attorney Becker commented on Justice Jackson’s dissent:
“She displays a true understanding of and respect for the important role of the NLRB in adjudicating labor disputes,” said, John M. Becker, an attorney at Sandulli Grace, P.C., a law firm that represents unions and employees.”
Attorney Becker further commented on the importance of labor unions in our economy:
Becker glowed over Justice Jackson’s dissent: “At a time when the Republican Party (and a certain portion of the electorate) perceives unions negatively, Justice Jackson’s robust affirmation of the important role unions play in the American economy is a breath of fresh air. I wish we lived in a world where Justice Jackson could get four more votes for her position, but we don’t.”
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, barely 10% of the overall U.S. workforce (including private and public sector workers) is unionized. In 1983, that figure was 20%. The overall percentage of union membership is half of what it was 40 years ago. While about 33% of public sector workers are represented by unions, the figure for private sector workers is 6%.
Unionized workers in the public sector (police officers, fire fighters, teachers, etc.) need to understand that the wages and benefits they have fought for are financed not just by their pension contributions but also by taxes paid by everyone. As fewer and fewer private sector workers have the ability to negotiate for better wages and benefits, their willingness to pay for public sector benefits they don’t have can only diminish.
Workers, particularly unionized ones, need to understand the pernicious effects that the Trump appointees on the NLRB had on private sector unions and their members. The Biden administration has appointed people to that agency who are committed to enforcing its mission of protecting unions and employees. Perhaps, with people on the NLRB who are truly committed to enforcing the law, private sector unions can grow. Only when many more workers belong to unions can this country truly live up to its stated objective of equality for all.