California Court of Appeal Invalidates Anti-Injunction Law

I am still a bit behind on blogging because of last month's trial. Here's one that came down in the middle of the trial.

As the courts in this case noted, California law ma[d]e it nearly impossible to get an injunction against a union picketing in front of a private business. Labor Code Section 1138.1 and Code of Civil Procedure Section 527.3 impose significant procedural hurdles and substantive limitations on courts to issue injunctions against "peaceful picketing." These protections were extended to private property, such as outside the front entrance of retail stores.

The court first held that the entrance of a FoodsCo, including the sidewalk and "apron" were private property, not a public forum. The court distinguished cases that held enclosed shopping malls were public areas. Because the FoodsCo entrance and surrounds were private, the court noted, the company could prohibit speech without violating the picketers' First Amendment or California constitutional rights.

The court then examined whether the anti-injunction laws violated FoodsCo's rights. FoodsCo sought an injunction againt a union's trespass. The union had picketed from the opening of the store until the present, five days per week, 8 hours per day. The complaint was that FoodsCo was operating non-union.

The trial court denied the injunction because FoodsCo had not adequately proved its entitlement to an injunction under the Labor Code's special provision, Section 11381.1. The business owner must prove, among other things, that the police are unwilling or unable to provide assistance, and other grounds that do not apply to the issuance of trespass injunctions generally.
Here is the money quote:

Accordingly, as applied in this case, the Moscone Act violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution. The Act affords preferential treatment to speech concerning labor disputes over speech about other issues. It declares that labor protests on private property are legal, even though a similar protest concerning a different issue would constitute trespassing. And it denies the property owner involved in a protest over a labor dispute access to the equity jurisdiction of the courts even though it does not deny such access if the protest does not involve a labor dispute.

So, unless the Legislature acts somehow to create a constitutional anti-injunction law, the courts will have to enforce anti-trespass injunctions against unions on the same basis as it does so outside the union picketing context.

The case is Ralphs Grocery Company v. UFCW, Local 9 and the opinion is here.