Corporate Accountability

RELEASE: At the Supreme Court, Starbucks’s Arguments Run Headlong into the History of American Labor Law

WASHINGTON, DC – Following oral argument at the Supreme Court this morning in Starbucks v. McKinney, a case in which the Court is considering what standard courts should apply when deciding whether to grant a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) request for a temporary injunction to halt an alleged unfair labor practice, Constitutional Accountability Center Appellate Counsel Smita Ghosh issued the following reaction:

At the Supreme Court this morning, Starbucks engaged in a battle that is part of its larger war against the campaign to unionize its coffee houses, arguing that courts cannot defer to the NLRB in considering NLRB requests to enjoin alleged unfair labor practices.

Starbucks argues that courts must adhere to so-called traditional equitable practices that, in their view, preclude consideration of statutory context and deference to the NLRB. This argument runs headlong into both the history of American labor law and traditional equitable principles, which recognize that the “public interest” and statutory context are always important considerations.

As Justice Jackson noted at the start of the argument, this is not a “standard preliminary injunction,” because the statute at issue here reflects Congress’s decades-long effort to limit the jurisdiction of courts over labor disputes and give the NLRB the ultimate authority to resolve disputes between unions and employers. Moreover, several justices pointed out that no matter the test at issue, consideration of the statutory context is appropriate. Here, statutory context requires some degree of deference to the Board’s judgments.

While today’s argument left unclear what the justices will do, if they adhere to the text and history of the law at issue, as well as Supreme Court precedent, they should reject Starbucks’s argument.



Case page in Starbucks v. McKinney: