Monday, May 20

The Supreme Court will review Starbucks’ attempt to overturn workers’ ruling

The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear a case filed by Starbucks challenging a federal judge’s order to reinstate seven employees who were fired at a store in Memphis amid a local union drive.

Starbucks argued that the criteria for such intervention by judges in employment cases, which can also include measures such as reopening shuttered stores, varies from region to region of the country because federal appeals courts may adhere to different standards.

A regional director of the National Labor Relations Board, the company’s opponent in the case, argued that the apparent differences in criteria between appellate courts were semantic rather than substantive, and that a single effective standard was already in place nationwide.

The labor committee had urged the Supreme Court to stay out of the case, the outcome of which could affect labor organizing across the country.

The agency is asking federal judges for temporary relief, such as reinstatement of fired workers, because litigation over unfair labor practices can take years. The agency argues that retaliation against workers in the meantime can have a chilling effect on the organization, even if the workers ultimately win their case.

In a statement on Friday, Starbucks said: “We are pleased that the Supreme Court has decided to consider our request to ensure a level playing field for all US employers by ensuring that a single standard applies as federal district courts.” .

The labor board declined to comment.

Starbucks’ union organizing campaign began in the Buffalo area in 2021 and quickly spread to other states. The Workers United union represents workers at more than 370 Starbucks stores, out of approximately 9,600 company-owned stores in the United States.

The labor board has issued dozens of complaints against the company based on hundreds of allegations of labor law violations, including threats and retaliation against workers who try to unionize and failure to bargain in good faith. This week, the agency issued a complaint accusing the company of unilaterally changing hours and hours at unionized stores across the country.

The company denied violating employment law and said in a statement that it disputed the latest complaint and would “defend our legitimate business decisions” before a judge.

The case that led to the dispute before the Supreme Court involves seven workers who were fired in February 2022 after letting local journalists into a shuttered store to conduct interviews. Starbucks said the incident violated company rules; workers and the union said the company did not enforce those rules against workers who were not involved in union organizing.

The labor committee found the workers’ accusations to be true and filed a complaint two months later. A federal judge granted the labor board’s request for an order to reinstate the workers in August, and a federal appeals court upheld the order.

“Starbucks is seeking a Supreme Court bailout from Trump for his illegal busting of unions,” Workers United said in a statement Friday. “There is no question that Starbucks violated federal law by firing the Memphis workers because they unionized.”

Starbucks said it was critical that the Supreme Court take up the case because the labor board is becoming more ambitious in asking judges to order remedies such as reinstatement of fired workers.

The labor board noted in its filing with the Supreme Court that it was issuing fewer injunctions overall than in some recent years: Just 21 were authorized in 2022, down from more than 35 in 2014 and 2015.

A Supreme Court decision could in principle raise the bar for judges to issue orders to reinstate workers, effectively limiting the labor board’s ability to obtain temporary relief for workers during an industrial action campaign.

The case is not the only recent challenge to the labor council’s authority. After the board of directors filed a complaint accusing rocket company SpaceX of illegally firing eight employees for criticizing its CEO, Elon Musk, the company filed a lawsuit this month alleging that the agency’s structure for judging complaints is unconstitutional.

The company claimed in its lawsuit that the agency’s structure violated its right to a jury trial.