OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
President Joe Biden’s administration sided with former President Donald Trump’s administration on a steel tariffs case and the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed.
The Court declined to hear an appeal brought by USP Holdings, which was rejected by lower courts, in which it claimed the Trump administration acted improperly when it enacted the tariffs. The Biden administration has left the tariffs intact for the most part and argued against USP Holdings and other steel importers who said they were damaged by the tariffs.
“The Biden administration understands that simply lifting steel tariffs without any solution in place, particularly beyond the dialogue, could well mean layoffs and plant closures in Pennsylvania and in Ohio and other states where obviously the impact would be felt not only economically but politically,” Scott Paul, president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, said.
“Trump cited Section 232 of the Trade Act of 1962, which permits the president to impose restrictions on the importation of goods deemed essential to national security. He said at the time that the tariffs were needed to bolster the production of airplanes, ships, and military materials with U.S. steel. The tariffs created tension with some U.S. allies, although some countries were exempted from the policy,” the report added.
“The Supreme Court turned away the petition in USP Holdings Inc. v. United States, court file 22-565, in an unsigned order. The court didn’t explain its decision. No justices dissented from the order. In April 2017, then-Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross commenced an investigation to determine whether “steel was being imported under such circumstances as to threaten or impair national security,” according to the petition (pdf) filed with the Supreme Court,” it continued.
Beyond that, the Supreme Court has been busy.
In what is a crushing blow to unions, a stronghold of the Democrat Party, the Supreme Court has ruled that companies can sue unions for financial damage from strikes.
On Thursday the court ruled in favor of a concrete company in Washington that wanted to revive a lawsuit against the International Brotherhood of Teamsters which it said damaged its product.
“The 8-1 decision written by Justice Amy Coney Barrett means the company, Glacier Northwest Inc., can pursue a lawsuit against the union in state court over an August 2017 strike in which drivers walked off the job, leaving wet concrete in their trucks. Barrett, one of the court’s six conservatives, wrote that a state court was wrong to dismiss the claims at such an early stage in proceedings based on its concern that the claims conflicted with the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), a federal law that protects union activity,” NBC News reported.
“Because the union took affirmative steps to endanger Glacier’s property rather than reasonable precautions to mitigate that risk, the NLRA does not arguably protect its conduct,” she said.
The only Justice to dissent was Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, who was nominated by President Joe Biden, who said the decision, “risks erosion of the right to strike.”
She said that by making the decision to side with the company the court “inserts itself into this conflict, proceeding to opine on the propriety of the union’s strike activity.”
“This case is Exhibit A as to why the board — and not the courts — should ordinarily take the first crack at resolving contentious, fact-bound labor disputes of this nature,” she said.
Constitutional scholar Jonathan Turley explained the decision in a thread on Twitter.
“The first decision is out. It is Glacier NW v. International Brotherhood,” he said. “The Washington Supreme Court is reversed in an opinion by Justice Barrett. Only Justice Jackson dissented with the court ruling that federal law does not preempt a company’s state law tort claims against a union when a strike causes damage to the company’s property.”
“Glacier was the big ticket case today. The ruling against unions could prove something of a game-changer. The nearly unanimous court ruled that ‘the Union did not take reasonable precautions to protect Glacier’s property from imminent danger resulting from the drivers’ sudden cessation of work,’” he said in another thread.
“Here is the key holding from Justice Barrett (there were concurrences as well as a lone dissent from Justice Jackson): ‘The Union’s actions not only resulted in the destruction of all the concrete Glacier had prepared that day; they also posed a risk of foreseeable, aggravated, and imminent harm to Glacier’s trucks. Because the Union took affirmative steps to endanger Glacier’s property rather than reasonable precautions to mitigate that risk, the NLRA does not arguably protect its conduct,’” he said.