Supreme Court to hear Starbucks’ request to overturn labor decision

The Supreme Court agreed Friday to hear On the case filed by Starbucks challenging a federal judge’s order to reinstate seven fired employees at a Memphis store amid a union campaign there.

Starbucks argued that the criteria for such intervention by judges in labor cases, which may also include measures such as reopening closed stores, vary in different regions of the country, as 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 apparent differences in criteria between appeals courts were semantic rather than substantive, and that a single effective standard was already in place nationally.

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

The agency is asking federal judges for temporary relief, such as reinstatement of fired workers, because lawsuits over unfair labor practices can take years. The agency says retaliation against workers can have a chilling effect on organizing, even if workers ultimately win their case.

In a statement released Friday, Starbucks said: “We are pleased that the Supreme Court has decided to consider our request to level the playing field for all U.S. employers by ensuring that a single standard is applied in courts across the country. federal districts. »

The labor board declined to comment.

The Starbucks unionization drive 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 Commission has filed dozens of complaints against the company, based on hundreds of accusations of labor law violations, including threats and retaliation against workers who seek to unionize and a failure to negotiate properly. faith. This week, the agency filed a lawsuit accusing the company of unilaterally changing work hours and schedules at unionized stores across the country.

The company denied violating labor laws and said in a statement that it had responded to the latest complaint and planned to “defend our lawful business decisions” in front of a judge.

The case that gave rise to the conflict before the Supreme Court concerns seven workers who were fired in February 2022 after allowing local journalists into a closed store to conduct interviews. Starbucks said the incident violated company policies; workers and the union said the company did not enforce such rules on workers who were not involved in unionizing.

The labor commission found the workers’ accusations justified and filed a complaint two months later. A federal judge granted the labor board’s request for an order reinstating the workers in August, and a federal appeals court upheld the order.

“Starbucks is asking the Trump Supreme Court for a bailout for its illegal anti-union measures,” Workers United said in a statement Friday. “There is no doubt that Starbucks violated federal law by firing Memphis workers for unionizing.”

Starbucks said it was critical for the Supreme Court to take up the case as the labor board became more ambitious in asking judges to order corrective measures such as reinstatement of fired workers.

The Labor Commission noted in its Supreme Court filing that it had issued fewer injunctions overall than in recent years – only 21 were authorized in 2022, compared to more than 35 in 2014 and 2015.

A Supreme Court ruling could in principle raise the bar for judges to issue reinstatement orders for workers, limiting the labor board’s ability to obtain temporary relief for workers during a union campaign.

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

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