The Supreme Court declined to hear In-N-Out’s appeal to allow a button ban.

By Mike Pomranz
February 28, 2019
Pacific Press/Getty Images

The central focus of the Fight for $15 campaign is right in its name: a living wage of $15 per hour for fast food workers. But though the name might contain a dollar sign, it’s about more than just money: It’s also about providing better conditions for people in the food industry in general, whether it’s more stable schedules or even the right to speak out in support of the movement itself.

Speaking of which, fast food workers’ right to express themselves just got another boost earlier this week when the Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal from In-N-Out to overturn a lower court ruling allowing employees to wear buttons supporting the Fight for $15 campaign. The legal battle began when the popular Southern California-based burger chain told employees in Austin, Texas to stop wearing these buttons because of a “no pins or stickers” rule — a move that the courts said violated federal labor laws.

Since the SCOTUS decision upholds an existing decision, it doesn’t change any existing legislation, but it could still have repercussions across the fast food industry. “This decision will galvanize the workers to create their platform. It may encourage more workers to have that presence everywhere — not just In-N-Out — but across the United States,” Anthony Advincula, Public Affairs Officer for the restaurant worker advocacy group ROC United told me. “This will galvanize the right to unionize and the right to free speech and show workers that you have a voice.”

Alondra Becerra, an In-N-Out employee in Los Angeles who is also part of the Fight for $15 movement, presented a similar sentiment when speaking with Bloomberg Law. “Today’s decision affirms that no company can just unilaterally decide to take away our right to speak out and join together in a union,” she told the site. “It’s a victory for workers everywhere who are fighting to win our unions and make the economy more equal that the Supreme Court is not going to take up In-N-Out’s case.”

Of course, it’s still possible that the Supreme Court could weigh in on this issue in the future if a more compelling case came along. Reportedly, a major issue with In-N-Out’s argument was that the chain actually does make employees wear promotional buttons at times throughout the year. (Turns out the chain offers both Double-Doubles and double standards.) But for now, its possible more fast food workers might look to take advantage of the Supreme Court's pro-button stance.

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