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Court affirms laws allowing labor pickets on private property

December 27, 2012 | 11:13 am

The California Supreme Court upheld two state laws Thursday that permit labor unions to picket on privately owned property at store entrances.

The two state laws, which specifically prevent courts from interfering with peaceful labor pickets on private property, are justified “by the state's interest in promoting collective bargaining to resolve labor disputes,” Justice Joyce L. Kennard wrote for the court.

Other demonstrators have no free speech rights to gather in front of a store’s privately owned entrance. But California “may single out labor-related speech for particular protection or regulation” as an exercise in the economic regulation of labor relations without running afoul of the U.S. Constitution, Kennard wrote.

The 6-1 ruling overturned an appeals court decision that found the two state laws violated the federal Constitution by giving speech about labor issues greater protection than other communications.

The ruling stemmed from a labor dispute at a Ralphs grocery store in Sacramento. The store asked police to eject pickets who were passing out leaflets within a few feet of the store entrance. A trial court refused to order the pickets removed, but the appeals court said an injunction was justified.

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-- Maura Dolan

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