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Are Calif. labor-protest laws constitutional? Supreme Court turns away case

Members of a labor union picketed a non-union grocery store in Sacramento, Calif. The US Supreme Court declined an appeal challenging the constitutionality of two state laws that allow such picketing.

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The US Supreme Court declined on Monday to take up an appeal challenging the constitutionality of two California laws that allow labor unions to picket on the private property of a targeted non-union business, despite the objections of the property owner.

Critics of the laws say they violate the First Amendment rights of the property owner and the Equal Protection Clause by establishing a content-based preference that affords a higher level of protection to the speech of union officials during a labor dispute than to other would-be speakers.

The issue arose in a case involving a grocery store in Sacramento, Calif., owned by the Ralphs grocery chain.

The store’s workers are not unionized. Shortly after it opened in 2007, members of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 8 began picketing the business five days a week, eight hours a day.

The group of four to eight union members picketed at the front entrance to the store on private property and in the privately owned parking lot.

Store managers complained that the protests were confrontational and designed to undercut the store’s commercial operations by attempting to encourage customers to boycott the non-union business.


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