Here’s a bit of bad news for employers with union-represented employees who are considering going out on strike: A recent 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling has struck down a number of picketing permit restrictions passed by local ordinance. The decision’s basis: Unions’ right to free speech.
The result may be some very public protests by labor unions when disputes spill over.
Recent case: The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) represents about 5,300 janitors in Houston. When the union and couldn’t agree on a contract, the SEIU authorized a strike and wanted to engage in parades, marches and rallies in downtown Houston.
The union wanted to target employers in Houston office buildings cleaned by many SEIU janitors and wanted to march during the middle of the workday, using megaphones and bullhorns to amplify their message.
A Houston ordinance required permits for any parades, only allowed two permits per month for any parade organizer. In addition, the hours one could march were severely restricted.
The SEIU sued, alleging the restrictions interfered with their right to free speech.
The court agreed and struck down parts of the ordinances as too restrictive. (SEIU v. City of Houston, No. 08-20616, 5th Cir., 2010)
Final note: If faced with a strike, get legal help right away. You may want to find ways to get your message out to counter parades and protests. However, you must make sure your efforts aren’t unfair labor practices.
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