Amazon and Trader Joe’s have filed claims against the US National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), arguing that the agency’s in-house enforcement proceedings violate the US Constitution.

According to Reuters, Amazon’s filing with the NLRB on Thursday 15 February 2024 asserts that the agency’s unique structure infringes on the company’s right to a jury trial. The company also argues that the limits on the removal of administrative judges and the board’s five members, who are appointed by the President, are unconstitutional.

The filing comes in response to a pending case accusing Amazon of illegally retaliating against employees at a warehouse in Staten Island, New York, who voted to unionise in 2022.

Amazon, which has faced more than 250 NLRB complaints alleging unlawful labour practices across the country in recent years, has denied any wrongdoing.

Trader Joe’s raised similar arguments in January 2024 during an NLRB hearing, and two Starbucks baristas seeking to dissolve their unions have challenged the board’s structure in separate lawsuits.

The NLRB’s general counsel issues complaints against employers alleging violations of federal labour law. These cases are initially heard by administrative judges and then by the five-member board, whose decisions can be appealed in federal court.

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Seth Goldstein, a lawyer representing unions in the Amazon and Trader Joe’s cases, told Reuters he believes that the growing number of challenges to the labour board could lead to the issue reaching the US Supreme Court. The court’s conservative majority has shown scepticism towards other US agencies’ in-house proceedings.

Goldstein also worries that the pending cases could embolden other employers to refuse to bargain with unions, believing that courts will strip the NLRB of its enforcement powers.

“I’m very concerned that this is going to cause real problems in collective bargaining for both new and established unions,” said Goldstein, a partner at law firm Julien Mirer Singla and Goldstein in New York.