Minimum Competence - Daily Legal News Podcast
Minimum Competence
Fri 6/2 - Starbucks Labor Disaster, SCOTUS Blow to Labor Strikes, AirBnb sues NYC, Gambia Retains US Firm and Scienter is a Fun Word

Fri 6/2 - Starbucks Labor Disaster, SCOTUS Blow to Labor Strikes, AirBnb sues NYC, Gambia Retains US Firm and Scienter is a Fun Word

We have Starbucks ongoing labor woes, a blow to labor strikes, Airbnb sues NYC over short term rentals, Gambia retains US law firm and we find out what scienter means.

On this day in legal history, Italy turned from a monarchy into a republic following a public referendum.  

On June 2, 1946, Italy underwent a momentous transformation as it transitioned from a monarchy to a republic, marking a significant milestone in its history. This pivotal event was the result of a nationwide referendum held following the fall of Fascism and the end of World War II. The choice before the Italian people was clear: they had to decide between retaining King Umberto II as their monarch or establishing a republic. The Italian people, weary of the autocratic rule that had characterized the monarchy and the role the country played in the Second World War, cast their votes to determine the country's future. With an overwhelming majority, they chose to abolish the monarchy and establish a republic, cementing their commitment to democratic principles. This decision led to the creation of the Italian Republic, where sovereignty now rested with the people. 

Italy had been ruled by the House of Savoy, a royal family that held power since the unification of the country in the late 19th century. As a result of the referendum, King Umberto II, the last monarch of Italy and the House of Savoy, abdicated his throne on June 18, 1946. The monarchy was formally abolished, and the Italian Republic was proclaimed. The head of state would now be a president, elected by the Parliament.

This transition also sparked a wave of reforms, including land reform, labor rights, and the expansion of social welfare programs. Italy embarked on a path of modernization and reconstruction, focusing on economic development, infrastructure, and education. The republican system allowed for greater political participation and representation, empowering the Italian people to shape their own destiny.

Starbucks, the world's largest coffee chain, has been found to be violating federal labor law in numerous administrative law decisions, indicating a deliberate effort to impede unionization and disregard the authority of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Over the past eight months, Starbucks has lost 16 out of 17 cases decided by NLRB administrative law judges, facing charges such as worker intimidation, discriminatory rules, and unlawful termination of union organizers. The company has also been accused of interfering with NLRB processes, reflecting a corporate strategy that treats labor law violations as a mere cost of doing business. The rulings, although representing a fraction of the NLRB complaints against Starbucks, could strengthen allegations in other cases and potentially lead to court injunctions. The NLRB has filed nearly 100 complaints against Starbucks based on union-filed charges, while Starbucks has reciprocated with charges against Starbucks Workers United, the union representing its employees. Critics argue that Starbucks seems to undermine the NLRB's authority, believing it will be vindicated by the courts or that the board's remedies are insufficient to change its behavior. These labor law violations shed light on Starbucks' alleged anti-union campaign, which the company denies, emphasizing its commitment to policies that prohibit retaliation against organizers and its dedication to engaging in collective bargaining. The ALJ decisions have revealed a pattern of violations, including illegal statements made by managers and promises of benefits to dissuade unionization efforts. Such previous misconduct can serve as evidence in future cases, demonstrating anti-union motives. As Starbucks continues to face legal challenges, labor law experts suggest that the company is prepared to fight these allegations extensively, reinforcing the need for a comprehensive cease-and-desist order to curtail its nationwide strategy.

Starbucks Is Racking Up Labor Law Violations as Rulings Roll in

The US Supreme Court has ruled in an 8-1 decision that federal labor law does not prevent a ready-mix concrete company from suing a union in state court for alleged intentional destruction of property during a strike. The ruling allows costly lawsuits against striking unions based on the economic consequences of their protests and may lead to state legislation curbing strike conduct. However, the decision is specific to the case and does not reshape the law on strike protections. 

The case involved Glacier Northwest Inc., a concrete supplier, accusing an International Brotherhood of Teamsters affiliate of coordinating with truck drivers to time their strike in a way that would result in wasted concrete. The Supreme Court overturned a Washington state high court decision and clarified the boundaries of state and local efforts to regulate conduct in relation to the National Labor Relations Act. 

The majority opinion, written by Justice Amy Coney Barrett, emphasized the duty of the Teamsters affiliate to protect Glacier's property and stated that the union's conduct went beyond the protections of the NLRA. Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch indicated their willingness to reconsider the broad preemption doctrine of the NLRA. Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson dissented, suggesting that labor disputes of this nature should be resolved by the National Labor Relations Board. 

The ruling was seen by Glacier's attorney and the National Federation of Independent Business as upholding the balance of power between labor unions and employers, while the Teamsters criticized it for favoring corporations over workers. The Service Employees International Union expressed satisfaction that the right to strike was not rolled back. The Teamsters affiliate's attorney noted that the ruling left options open for the union to seek preemption in state court based on new evidence. Overall, the decision is not expected to limit union workers' ability to strike.

For further reading, check out

coverage here and discussion of same here.

Justices Allow Company to Sue Union for Strike Destruction (2)

Supreme Court ruling could chill labor strikes | Reuters

Airbnb has filed a lawsuit against New York City over a new law that the company claims will act as a "de facto ban" on short-term rentals. The law, set to take effect in July, will impose stricter regulations on hosts, requiring them to register with the city and comply with various complex regulations. Airbnb argues that these regulations will make it more difficult for hosts to do business. The company is seeking a court order to block the enforcement of the law. In response, the Mayor's office stated that it will review the lawsuit while emphasizing its commitment to protecting safety and community livability.

Airbnb sues New York City over short-term rental restrictions | Reuters

The Gambian government has hired a U.S. law firm to explore potential legal action following an investigation that found contaminated medicines from India were likely responsible for the deaths of children in the country. 

At least 70 children, mostly under the age of 5, died from acute kidney injury between June and October. Local doctors suspected Indian-imported cough syrups, and tests by the World Health Organization confirmed the presence of lethal toxins. Gambian Justice Minister Dawda Jallow stated that legal action was being considered, but did not specify the target or name the law firm involved. 

The medicines linked to the deaths were manufactured by Indian drugmaker Maiden Pharmaceuticals, which denied wrongdoing. A report by a panel of international experts indicated that 22 of the analyzed cases were "very likely" caused by poisoning from the toxins found in Maiden products. The causality assessment and the justice ministry's recommendations will be made public within six months. Gambia plans to establish a testing facility for imported drugs with support from the World Bank.

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Exclusive: Gambia hires US law firm to consider action on toxic Indian cough syrup, minister says | Reuters

The US Supreme Court has revived two False Claims Act (FCA) suits against SuperValu Inc. and Safeway Inc. that were filed by whistleblowers alleging overcharging the government for prescription drugs. The suits were initially rejected by the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit for lack of "scienter," (SAI-UHN-TER) which refers to a defendant's knowledge and subjective beliefs. The Supreme Court stated that the appeals court failed to consider evidence of subjective intent and that the scienter element should focus on the defendant's actual mental state, not an objectively reasonable interpretation. The companies are accused of falsely reporting reimbursement prices to Medicaid and Medicare, claiming they were their "usual and customary" prices while charging retail customers less. Whistleblowers can establish scienter by demonstrating that the companies knew their reported prices were inaccurate, were aware of the risk but intentionally avoided verifying accuracy, or submitted claims despite being aware of a substantial and unjustifiable risk. The ruling is expected to make it more challenging for defendants to seek early dismissal based on lack of scienter, potentially leading to increased discovery costs and more FCA cases being brought forward.

Supreme Court Reopens Fraud Suits Against SuperValu, Safeway (1)

Minimum Competence - Daily Legal News Podcast
Minimum Competence
The idea is that this podcast can accompany you on your commute home and will render you minimally competent on the major legal news stories of the day. The transcript is available in the form of a newsletter at