2018 Summer DF Short takes

Summer 2018 Digital Fruit Short Takes

The Last Straw for Starbucks? Company Pledges to Ditch Plastic Straws by 2020 

Starbucks announced on July 9 that it plans to phase out plastic straws from its 28,000 stores worldwide by 2020. This move follows the city of Seattle’s recent ban on plastic straws, where Starbucks’ headquarters are located, as well as similar moves from other corporate giants like Hyatt, which recently announced that plastic straws and drink picks would be available only on request at its hotels beginning September 1. In phasing out the use of plastic straws, Starbucks plans to broaden the manufacture and widespread use of what some have dubbed the “adult sippy cup,” which features a raised lip to drink from and is completely recyclable. The one exception is the popular Frappuccino beverage, which will continue to feature a straw made from either paper or a compostable plastic. CEO Kevin Johnson called the move a “significant milestone” in the company’s sustainability efforts as the signaled transition builds on its earlier $10 million investment to create recyclable and compostable cups for use around the world.

In-N-Out of Line with U.S. Labor Laws

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on July 6 that an In-N-Out Burger restaurant in Austin, Texas violated federal labor law when it barred employees from wearing buttons supporting the national “Fight for $15” movement (a nationwide movement advocating for a higher minimum wage and heightened workplace conditions). In unanimously affirming the National Labor Relations Board’s ruling that the burger chain violated federal law when it barred employees from wearing these buttons, the Fifth Circuit rejected In-N-Out’s legal arguments. In-N-Out first pointed to its “no pins or stickers” policy that it justified on the basis of needing to protect the “public image” it sought to create by consistently presenting its workers in clean white uniforms. However, this argument was drastically undercut based on the finding that In-N-Out requires its employees to wear much larger buttons on two occasions throughout the year – during the holiday Christmas season and during the company’s annual April fundraiser for its nonprofit foundation. Further, the Fifth Circuit rejected the argument that allowing the buttons to be worn would present a food safety risk, as In-N-Out tried to contend that the buttons were so small that they could fall into a customer’s food without an employee noticing. The National Labor Relations Act has long been read as giving workers the right to wear items pertaining to their wages and other protected measures, and this case confirms that principle.

There May Be No Winners in a Trade War

Major U.S. dairy associations drafted a letter to President Donald Trump urging him to suspend tariffs on Mexican Products. The U.S. enacted tariffs against Mexican steel and aluminum earlier this year. In response, Mexico intends to enact tariffs on U.S. dairy exports later this year. In their letter, the major U.S. dairy associations state the following: “unlike Canada, Mexico has long been a model for open dairy trade with the United States. Through investment and cooperation with Mexico, we have succeeded in becoming the country’s biggest foreign dairy supplier, with cheese purchases last year alone totaling nearly $400 million. Today, Mexico accounts for approximately one quarter of foreign demand for Made-in-America dairy products and is our most reliable trading partner.” Mexico plans to enact tariffs against U.S. dairy exports because the U.S. has enacted tariffs against Mexican steel and aluminum products, citing national security concerns.

Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Are Unable to Deduct Marijuana Related Business Expenses

In a recent court ruling, a Colorado District Court dismissed a refund case (Alpenglow Botanicals, LLC v. U.S.) in which Alpenglow Botanicals, a medical marijuana dispensary, argued that the section 280E of the Internal Revenue Code (the “Code”) violated both the 16th Amendment and excessive fines provision of the 8th Amendment. Section 280E of the Code disallows any deduction paid or incurred on a trade or business if that trade or business consists of trafficking in controlled substances. Alpenglow argued that the 16th Amendment requires the deduction of all business expenses, as opposed to cost of goods sold, which the Court has interpreted the 16th Amendment requires be deducted. Alpenglow also argued that section 280E in practicality is an excessive fine; however, because the Alpenglow did not assert this claim in its complaint, the court was not able to discuss the merits of said claim.

PUNCHLINE

By David Spence

Isn’t it kind and thoughtful of Congress to have made it a federal crime to sell food in a spray can without warning consumers to try to avoid spraying the food in their eyes?  See 21 United States Code §§ 331, 333, 343 and 21 Code of Federal Regulations § 101.17(a)(1).

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