Supreme Court: Law lets picketers use employer’s sidewalk
December 27, 2012
• Says picketing on private property not protected by Constitution
• “The supermarket‘s privately owned entrance area is not a public forum”
California state law lets union picketers use a privately owned sidewalk for their protest, even if the state Constitution does not protect such picketing, the California Supreme Court says.
The case involves fractious labor relations between United Food and Commercial Workers Local 8 and Ralph’s Grocery Company at Ralph’s FoodsCo store in the College Square shopping Center in Sacramento.
Ralph’s sought an injunction to prevent the union from picketing on the privately owned walkway in front of the only customer entrance to its store. In response, the union argued that two statutory provisions — Code of Civil Procedure section 527.3 (the Moscone Act) and Labor Code section 1138.1 (section 1138.1) — prohibited issuance of an injunction under these circumstances.
Although it agreed with a Court of Appeal ruling that the walkway fronting the supermarket‘s entrance was not a public forum under the California Constitution‘s provision protecting liberty of speech, the state Supreme Court says Thursday that picketing activities do have statutory protection under the Moscone Act and section 1138.1.
“We agree with the Court of Appeal that the supermarket‘s privately owned entrance area is not a public forum under the California Constitution‘s liberty of speech provision,” says the Supreme Court. “For this reason, a union‘s picketing activities in such a location do not have state constitutional protection.
“We do not agree with the Court of Appeal that the Moscone Act and section 1138.1, which are components of a state statutory system for regulating labor relations, and which are modeled on federal law, run afoul of the federal constitutional prohibition on content discrimination in speech regulations,” the Supreme Court says.
“On this basis, we reverse the Court of Appeal‘s judgment and remand the matter for further proceedings.”