Friday, January 4, 2013

Woo-hoo! Calif. court rules unions can picket on private property

Score another win for working people in California! Yesterday the state Supreme Court ruled union members can picket in store parking lots and on sidewalks. (Read the ruling here.)

The high court upheld laws that were struck down by an appellate court in 2010. Ralphs Grocery Co. sued to prevent our UFCW brothers and sisters from handbilling only 5 feet from a store door. Ralphs bans picketing during holiday seasons and sets up a 20-foot buffer zone.

The Appeals Court sided with Ralphs, ruling two state laws allowing unions to picket on private property were unconstitutional because they gave special protection to labor speech.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports the state Supreme Court disagreed yesterday, a 6-1 ruling, saying such activity is a legal component of collective bargaining. 
The laws are "justified by the state's interest in promoting collective bargaining to resolve labor disputes ... and the understanding that the area outside the entrance of the targeted business often is the most effective point of persuasion," said Justice Joyce Kennard in the majority opinion.
(Note: We're pleased the State of California has an interest in promoting collective bargaining. Wish they all did. Last year in Georgia our brothers and sisters at Teamsters Local 728 fought off legislation to make conspiring to picket a felony.)

There's one caveat, according to the Chronicle:
While the ruling was a victory for unions, its scope may be limited by a separate opinion by Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye that was endorsed by four of the seven justices. She said the law does not protect union conduct that tries to harm a business by using tactics that go beyond "persuasion of patrons to labor's position." 
For instance, Cantil-Sakauye said, a union can be prohibited from using "more signs than reasonably required to publicize the dispute," large signs or loud amplification designed to "repel patrons from the business."
Still, we'll take it.