Antitrust Advisory: Unions' Exemption from Antitrust Laws is not Made of Steel

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On August 1, 2008, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit reversed and remanded the district court’s grant of summary judgment for defendant, a local labor union, on Plaintiff’s federal antitrust claims in American Steel Erectors, Inc. v. Local Union No. 7 (Docket No. 07-1832 (1st Cir. Aug. 1, 2008)). The First Circuit held that the defendant Union’s job targeting program, as codified by and operated through certain agreements with employers, is not exempt from potential federal antitrust liability.

Why This Case Is Important

In an effort to balance the conflicting interests of antitrust policy, which strives to promote competition in the market place, and labor policy, which facilitates cooperation among workers, Congress and the Supreme Court have created certain statutory and nonstatutory exemptions from antitrust liability for labor groups. Despite these exemptions, Plaintiffs in this case alleged “a conspiracy between the Union and union employers to monopolize the structural steel industry in the Boston area and push non-union employers like Plaintiffs out of the market.” Relying on the statutory exemptions, the district court granted the Union’s motion for summary judgment, holding that the Union’s activities were exempt from antitrust liability. The First Circuit, however, disagreed. The First Circuit’s decision makes clear that, despite these exemptions, unions are not given carte blanche to engage in anticompetitive

activities, especially when acting in concert with non-labor groups.

See full advisory for more information on this case.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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