Monday, May 20

Amazon claims the National Labor Relations Board is unconstitutional

In the latest sign of a growing backlash within corporate America against the 88-year-old federal agency that enforces workers’ rights, Amazon argued in a legal filing Thursday that the National Labor Relations Board was unconstitutional.

The move followed a similar argument made by SpaceX, the rocket company founded and run by Elon Musk, in a legal complaint in January, and by Trader Joe’s during a labor board hearing a few weeks later.

The labor board is an arm of the prosecutor’s office, which issues complaints against employers or unions believed to have violated federally protected labor rights; administrative judges, who hear complaints; and a five-member board in Washington, to which decisions can be appealed.

Amazon’s complaint was part of a case before an administrative law judge in which labor board prosecutors accused Amazon of illegally retaliating against workers at a Staten Island warehouse known as JFK8, who unionized two years ago.

The company’s lawyers repeatedly denied in their statement that Amazon had broken the law. Then, in a section titled “Other Defenses,” they argued that “the NLRB structure violates the separation of powers” ​​by “preventing the executive power provided by Article II of the Constitution of the United States.”

The company further argued that the board or its actions or proceedings violated Articles I and III of the Constitution, as well as the Fifth and Seventh Amendments – in the latter case because, according to the document, board hearings can seek legal remedies beyond what is permitted without a jury trial.

Amazon declined to comment.

The claims made in the filing echo arguments made by SpaceX lawyers in a federal lawsuit last month, after the labor board filed a complaint accusing the company of illegally firing eight employees for criticizing Musk. SpaceX sued in Texas, but on Thursday a federal judge granted the board’s motion to move the case to California, where the company is headquartered.

In a statement, the board’s general counsel, Jennifer A. Abruzzo, said: “I am pleased that SpaceX’s apparent forum shopping efforts in Texas, in an effort to enjoin the agency’s litigation against it, have failed.”

Wilma Liebman, chairwoman of the labor board under President Barack Obama, called Amazon and SpaceX’s arguments “radical,” adding that “the constitutionality of the NLRB was established nearly 90 years ago by the Supreme Court.”

The arguments appear to align with a broader conservative effort to challenge the constitutionality of a variety of regulatory actions, some of which have led to cases before the Supreme Court.

In January, the Supreme Court also agreed to hear a case brought by Starbucks that challenges the standard used by federal judges to reinstate employees fired during a union drive. The outcome of the case could curb the labor board’s long-standing practice of seeking reinstatement of workers while their cases are pending, a process that can take years.