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Ralphs Labor Ruling Stands

SAN FRANCISCO — The U.S. Supreme Court said Monday it will not review a case involving the constitutionality of labor-related speech on private property in California.

Attorneys for Ralphs Grocery Co. said they were disappointed that the court was not going to review the case, which involved the constitutionality of California's preference for labor-related speech on private property.

Jacques Loveall, president of United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 8 Golden State, based in Sacramento, Calif. — which was the defendant in the suit — said, "Obviously we are gratified with the Supreme Court's decision to deny review. It is troubling, however, to witness a long-term union employer taking a hostile stance toward workers' rights to express themselves freely. Nonetheless, the Court's decision is a clear victory for working families."


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The original lawsuit was filed in 2008 by Ralphs against Local 8 to question the way the California constitution was being interpreted with regard to picketing activities outside a non-union FoodsCo store in Fresno, Calif., which was owned by Kroger Co., Cincinnati, and operated by its Ralphs Grocery Co. division.

The union said Ralphs was illegally trying to restrict the time, place and manner of union activities outside the store.

According to Timothy Ryan, an attorney with Morrison & Foerster LLP here, which represented Ralphs in the case, retailers will still see some benefits from a previous ruling. The Supreme Court's decision not to review the case allows the lower court ruling to stand, which means that, "with the sole exception of labor-related speech, [most] retail establishments may exclude all expressive activities from their property, and even stores located within large shopping centers may prohibit such activities near their entrances."

Read more news about Ralphs Grocery Co.

At issue was a 2011 ruling by California's Fifth Appellate District Court that said "to be a public forum under [the California Constitution], an area within a shopping center must be designed and furnished in a way that induces shoppers to congregate for purposes of entertainment, relaxation or conversation, and not merely to walk to or from a parking area, or to walk from one store to another, or to view a store's merchandise and advertising displays."

The case challenged the constitutionality of a 1975 California law that deprived state courts of jurisdiction to issue injunctions against "peaceful picketing or patrolling involving any labor dispute" and a section of the labor code that imposed severe restrictions on the rights of property owners to obtain injunctive relief.

In 2011 a three-judge panel in California's Fifth Appellate District Court said both statutes were unconstitutional under the First Amendment because they favor one kind of speech — labor activities — over other kinds of speech.

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