Today the Supreme Court denied to review an appeal in Ralphs Grocery Company v. United Food & Commercial Workers, Case No. 12-1162, challenging the constitutionality of two California laws that give organized labor the right to picket on the private property of a targeted business despite the property owner’s objections.
The two state laws involved were the Moscone Act (Cal. Code Civ. Proc. section 527.3) and Labor Code section 1138.1. The Moscone Act provides that certain labor activities, such as peaceful picketing and communications regarding a labor dispute, are legal where "any person may lawfully be," and thus cannot be enjoined. Meanwhile, Labor Code section 1138.1 prohibits a court from issuing an injunction during a labor dispute unless certain requirements are met, such as evidence establishing that “unlawful acts have been threatened and will be committed unless restrained or have been committed and will be continued unless restrained,” and a court finding that the police are “unable or unwilling to furnish adequate protection.”
In December 2012, the California Supreme Court issued a decision upholding the two state laws over Ralphs Grocery’s constitutional challenge:
the supermarket’s privately owned entrance area is not a public forum under the California Constitution’s liberty of speech provision. For this reason, a union’s picketing activities in such a location do not have state constitutional protection. Those picketing activities do have statutory protection, however, under the Moscone Act and section 1138.1. 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. On this basis, we reverse the Court of Appeal’s judgment and remand the matter for further proceedings.
In its petition to the U.S. Supreme Court, Ralphs Grocery argued that the two California laws were unconstitutional because they force property owners to open their private property to the expressive activities of a union while permitting property owners the right to exclude all other kinds of expressive activities (political, religious, etc.). As such, Ralphs claimed that the statutes violated the U.S. Constitution’s First and Fourteenth Amendments as an improper content-based regulation.