Steelworkers Sue Chemical Distributor Seeking to Obtain Medical Monitoring for its Members

The Steelworkers Union filed suit against chemical distributor Brenntag Northeast, Inc. seeking medical monitoring for its members after a 2012 workers compensation ruling found that a 30-year employee had developed a progressive neurological disorder following exposure to chemicals at work. The complaint alleged that the company knew of the dangers posed by the solvent and failed to share that information with workers or mitigate the employees’ exposure to the chemicals.

However, the Union likely lacks standing to bring this lawsuit. The Union should have sought emergency interim bargaining with the company in an effort to modify the collective bargaining agreement in a manner that provides employees with the medical monitoring it seeks to obtain. But, since the Union cannot force the Company to do this through the collective bargaining process, it now asks a court to force the Company to do what the Union cannot achieve through negotiation. This will be an interesting case to follow to determine whether unions, as remote third-parties, can file lawsuits against employers instead of seeking redress through the National Labor Relations Board or arbitration processes.