Amazon Argues National Labor Relations Board Is Unconstitutional

Amazon Argues National Labor Relations Board Is Unconstitutional

In the latest sign of a growing backlash within corporate America to the 88-year-old federal agency that enforces labor rights, Amazon argued in a legal filing on Thursday that the National Labor Relations Board was unconstitutional.

The move followed a similar argument by SpaceX, the rocket company founded and run by Elon Musk, in a legal complaint in January, and by Trader Joe’s during a labor board hearing a few weeks later.

The labor board consists of a prosecutorial arm, which issues complaints against employers or unions deemed to have violated federally protected labor rights; administrative judges, who hear complaints; and a five-member board in Washington, to which decisions can be appealed.

Amazon’s filing was part of a case before an administrative judge in which labor board prosecutors have accused Amazon of illegally retaliating against workers at a Staten Island warehouse known as JFK8, which unionized two years ago.

The company’s lawyers repeatedly denied in their filing that Amazon had broken the law. Then, under a section titled “Other Defenses,” they argued that “the structure of the N.L.R.B. violates the separation of powers” by “impeding the executive power provided for in Article II of the United States Constitution.”

The company also argued that the board or its actions or proceedings violated Articles I and III of the Constitution, as well as the Fifth and Seventh Amendments — in the last case because, the filing said, board hearings can seek legal remedies beyond what’s allowed without a trial by jury.

Amazon declined to comment.

The claims it made in the filing echo arguments that lawyers for SpaceX made in a federal lawsuit last month, after the labor board issued a complaint accusing the company of illegally firing eight employees for criticizing Mr. Musk. SpaceX sued in Texas, but a federal judge there on Thursday granted the board’s motion to transfer the case to California, where the company’s headquarters are.

In a statement, the board’s general counsel, Jennifer A. Abruzzo, said, “I am pleased that SpaceX’s blatant forum-shopping efforts in Texas attempting to enjoin the agency’s litigation against it have failed.”

Wilma Liebman, a chairwoman of the labor board under President Barack Obama, called the arguments by Amazon and SpaceX “radical,” adding that “the constitutionality of the N.L.R.B. was settled nearly 90 years ago by the Supreme Court.”

The arguments appear to align with a broader conservative effort to question the constitutionality of a variety of regulatory actions, some of which have resulted in cases before the Supreme Court.

In January, the Supreme Court also agreed to hear a case brought by Starbucks, which is challenging the standard federal judges use to reinstate employees who are fired during a union campaign. The outcome of the case could rein in the labor board’s longstanding practice of seeking reinstatement for workers while their cases are litigated, a process that can take years.

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