The Ohio Supreme Court ruled against union employees who sought unemployment pay after a 1998 work stoppage at several General Motors Corp. plants in Ohio.
Employees at eight GM plants in the state were laid off for parts of June and July that year after strikes at plants in Flint, Mich., led to parts shortages.
The unanimous decision by the Supreme Court on Thursday affects about 20,000 former and current autoworkers at plants in Lordstown, Mansfield, Parma, Defiance, Toledo, Columbus, Sandusky and Dayton.
After the stoppage ended, the United Auto Workers union argued for and were to receive unemployment back pay for the weeks workers were off the job, but filed a lawsuit over how workers were compensated for the Independence Day holiday, which fell during the stoppage.
At the time, GM reached an agreement with the union and compensated workers for the holiday week by making a one-time special payment that covered the holiday and four vacation days for each employee. The unions then requested the unemployment back pay for all the weeks plants were idled, including the holiday week.
The company argued employees had otherwise been paid for the holiday week and therefore were not entitled to unemployment pay for that week, while the union said the holiday pay agreement was a strike settlement unrelated to the unemployment pay claims.
The Supreme Court agreed to review the case after lower courts issued conflicting rulings. Chief Justice Thomas Moyer wrote in the court's decision that it was clear that "the purpose of this payment was to replace the lost Independence Week shutdown period," and that the unions had not presented convincing evidence to the contrary..