Regional NLRB blocked employee and his coworkers from voting out union, new lawsuit now second pending worker-backed challenge to agency’s authority
Fort Worth, TX (January 24, 2024) – Reed Busler, an employee at the “Military Highway” Starbucks in Shavano Park, TX, is hitting the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) with a federal lawsuit arguing the federal agency’s structure violates the separation of powers. The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, argues that the agency violates Article II of the Constitution by insulating NLRB Board Members from at-will removal by the President.
Busler’s lawsuit stems from an NLRB Regional Director’s dismissal of a petition he filed on behalf of his coworkers seeking an election to remove the Starbucks Workers United (SBWU) union from power at the coffee shop. Busler is receiving free legal aid in both proceedings from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys.
The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), the law that established the NLRB, restricts a president’s ability to remove Board members except for neglect of duty or malfeasance. Busler’s complaint contends that these restraints violate “the fundamental separation of powers principle that the President must be free to remove executive officers at will,” as dictated by Supreme Court cases like Seila Law LLC v. CFPB (2020) and Collins v. Yellen (2021).
“Board Members are principal officers wielding substantial executive power. This includes the power to promulgate binding rules, to enforce the law through adjudicating unfair labor practice disputes and issuing remedies, to issue subpoenas, and to enforce the law through adjudicating representation proceedings,” reads the complaint. “By adjudicating Busler’s petition notwithstanding its unconstitutional structure, the Board is violating his right to have his petition adjudicated by politically accountable officials.”
Regional NLRB Trapped Workers in Union Despite Reports of Abrasive Behavior
Busler submitted his union decertification petition on November 16, 2023. The petition contained signatures from enough of his coworkers to trigger a vote to remove the union under NLRB rules. However, the NLRB Regional Director still blocked the vote based on unfair labor practice charges SBWU union officials filed against Starbucks, despite there being no proven connection between those allegations and Busler’s decertification petition.
The NLRB’s refusal to hold a union decertification vote means that Busler and his coworkers are still trapped under the “representation” of the SBWU union, despite numerous reports of SBWU agents’ combative and abrasive behavior at the store. In other filings in the NLRB case, Busler and his colleagues reported that SBWU officials ordered a divisive strike in which “[union] supporters outside the store were loud, boisterous, and were screaming at customers” and “would sometimes yell at other employees or tell partners that if they did not support Workers United they would be personally ostracized by other partners.”
“Moreover, I believe the other employees who signed my decertification petition did not do so because they were coerced or duped by anything Starbucks allegedly did wrong, but because the Union was a divisive force in our store and has now ignored our location for several months,” Busler stated in an NLRB filing.
Lawsuit Seeks to Stop NLRB from Exercising Unconstitutional Power Over Workers’ Case
Busler’s federal lawsuit seeks a declaration from the District Court that the structure of the NLRB as it currently exists is unconstitutional, and an injunction halting the NLRB from proceeding with his decertification case until his federal lawsuit is resolved. Busler now joins Buffalo, NY-based Starbucks worker Ariana Cortes in challenging the structure of the NLRB with free Foundation legal aid.
“The National Labor Relations Board should not be a union boss-friendly kangaroo court run by powerful bureaucrats who exercise unaccountable power in violation of the Constitution,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Mr. Busler seeks to remove a union he and his colleagues oppose, and he is entitled to pursue that statutory right before an agency whose structure complies with the Constitution.”
The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation is a nonprofit, charitable organization providing free legal aid to employees whose human or civil rights have been violated by compulsory unionism abuses. The Foundation, which can be contacted toll-free at 1-800-336-3600, assists thousands of employees in about 200 cases nationwide per year.