Corporate Accountability

TV (Gray TV): CAC’s Ghosh Joins Gray TV to Discuss NLRB Case at Supreme Court

WASHINGTON (Gray DC) – A dispute involving fired Starbucks employees who tried to unionize is headed to the nation’s highest court on Tuesday after the coffee giant appealed a judge’s ruling that requires it to rehire the employees.

The case involves a judicial decision about a group of seven Memphis, Tennessee Starbucks baristas who were fired amid unionization efforts in 2022.

The National Labor Relations Board, knows as NLRB, said Starbucks unlawfully fired them. The agency then sought an injunction to get the company to rehire those employees. A U.S. district court judge granted the injunction and the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the decision.

However, Starbucks has said the workers were fired for violating company policy when they invited local journalists into a closed store. The company appealed the case to the Supreme Court.

“So Starbucks is asking the Supreme Court to essentially force the NLRB, the National Labor Relations Board, to follow the same criteria to obtain a preliminary injunction that every other federal agency has to follow,” said Mark Chenoweth, President and Chief Legal Officer of the New Civil Liberties Alliance, a legal group that filed an amicus brief in the case in support of Starbucks.

The company is asking the Supreme Court to consider stricter criteria for interventions by judges in labor disputes.

“It’s very easy for them to get a preliminary injunction or certainly far easier than it is for any other federal agency. And that just really has a an effect on making the playing field unlevel,” said Chenoweth.

Smita Ghosh is with the Constitutional Accountability Center, another group that filed amicus brief in support of the respondent, says that the standard that Starbucks is pushing for ignores much of the history of federal labor law.

Ghosh said that back in the 1930s and 1940s when Congress was writing and revising labor law, they wanted to limit the court’s role and did not want federal judges to look into strikes and issue injunctions to prevent labor unrest.

“It ended up being a practice that really aggravated violence and kind of disputes between labor and management,” said Ghosh. “So Congress chose another way, which was this federal agency, which is why the government standard, which involves a little bit of deference to that agency, is appropriate.”


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