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Jun 13, 2024, 4:59pm EDT
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Supreme Court sides with Starbucks in blow to union movement

Insights from The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Politico

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Starbucks cups are pictured on a counter in the Manhattan borough of New York City on February 16, 2022.
Carlo Allegri/REUTERS
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The News

The US Supreme Court decided in favor of Starbucks on Thursday in a case involving workers who were fired while trying to unionize a Starbucks store. The decision could make it harder for the US labor watchdog, the National Labor Relations Board, to intervene in labor organizing fights.

In this case, Starbucks said the workers were fired for violating company policy, but the NLRB successfully sought a court injunction to have them reinstated in their jobs.

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The Supreme Court found that the legal test used to issue the injunction was too broad and inconsistent with other courts. Eight justices supported the majority opinion, and Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson wrote a separate opinion that concurred with the overall judgment but dissented on several points.

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Decision could encourage more legal challenges to National Labor Relations Board

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Sources:  
The New York Times, The Washington Post

Injunctions won by the NLRB are “a powerful deterrent against firing workers trying to unionize,” The New York Times wrote, but this ruling could give companies greater license to crack down on union efforts. That means the decision could open the door to an onslaught of challenges to the NLRB’s authority, attorney Christopher Foster said, particularly because the agency has taken a more aggressive stance in support of union efforts during the Biden administration. “This vindicates the strategy of [companies] going to the courts and not accepting the NLRB’s decision in any given matter,” Foster said.

Ruling could chill union efforts across the US

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Sources:  
The Washington Post, NPR

The decision could have a “chilling effect” on labor organization efforts, legal experts said. Labor law challenges often take years to resolve, which may be discouraging for workers trying to organize; hence, injunctions to reinstate fired workers can be sought to address that concern. But this ruling will make it harder for the board to force a company to reinstate a worker, which experts said could dissuade other workers from organizing. However, the federal circuit courts that hear the most injunction petitions already used a legal test Starbucks preferred, a lawyer told NPR. That could mean the decision’s impact on organizing efforts more broadly isn’t so damaging as some fear, he said.

Decision aligned with broad legal movement to rein in federal powers

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Sources:  
The Independent, Politico

This was one of several cases before the Court this year aimed at shifting power away from federal agencies, a long-time goal for the conservative legal movement. Conservatives want to rein in the broad authority held by federal regulators such as the NLRB, and the Court could further weaken those powers by striking down a precedent known as the Chevron deference in a future decision. Overturning the Chevron deference “would have the potential of being one of the most destabilizing decisions that this court has issued, if it chooses to go there,” said James Goodwin, an analyst at the Center for Progressive Reform, a leftwing think tank.

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