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Amazon argues that national labor board is unconstitutional, joining SpaceX and Trader Joe's

A sign hanging from a building that reads, "Amazon in black letters" and blue arrow as part of the amazon logo.
Michael Sohn
An Amazon company logo is seen on the facade of a company's building in Schoenefeld near Berlin, Germany, on March 18, 2022.

Amazon is arguing in a legal filing that the 88-year-old National Labor Relations Board is unconstitutional, echoing similar arguments made this year by Elon Musk’s SpaceX and the grocery store chain Trader Joe’s in disputes about workers’ rights and organizing.

The Amazon filing, made Thursday, came in response to a case before an administrative law judge overseeing a complaint from agency prosecutors who allege the company unlawfully retaliated against workers at a New York City warehouse who voted to unionize nearly two years ago.

In its filing, Amazon denies many of the charges and asks for the complaint to be dismissed. The company’s attorneys then go further, arguing that the structure of the agency — particularly limits on the removal of administrative law judges and five board members appointed by the president — violates the separation of powers and infringes on executive powers stipulated in the Constitution.

The attorneys also argue that NLRB proceedings deny the company a trial by a jury and violate its due-process rights under the Fifth Amendment.

An NLRB spokesperson declined to comment on the filing. Amazon did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Seth Goldstein, an attorney who represents both the Amazon Labor Union and the labor group Trader Joe’s United, said the trend was “very frightening.”

“Since they can’t defeat successful union organizing, they now want to just destroy the whole process," he said.

The legal argument from Seattle-based Amazon, which has long resisted organizing efforts and is seeking to redo the sole union win at its U.S. warehouses, follows similar claims made by SpaceX and Trader Joe’s in a separate lawsuit and an agency hearing last month.

SpaceX sued the NLRB in early January, arguing the structure of the agency is unconstitutional. The lawsuit came a day after the labor agency accused the company of unlawfully firing employees who wrote an open letter critical of Musk and of creating the impression worker activities were being surveilled.

At a January labor board hearing over allegations Trader Joe's retaliated against union activism, an attorney for the grocery chain said the NLRB and its panel of administrative law judges are structured unconstitutionally.

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