Sacramento-area grocery union wins major legal victory in picketing dispute

Published: Wednesday, Jun. 12, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 6B
Last Modified: Wednesday, Jun. 12, 2013 - 6:53 am

Unionized grocery workers in the Sacramento area won a big legal victory upholding their right to picket a nonunion store when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear management's appeal this week.

The case involved an ongoing campaign by Local 8 of the United Food and Commercial Workers, based in Roseville, to keep customers from shopping at nonunion supermarkets. UFCW pickets were leafletting shoppers at a nonunion Foods Co. warehouse store in south Sacramento when litigation erupted.

Foods Co.'s parent, Ralphs, sought a court injunction to prevent the UFCW from picketing in front of the store in 2008. After several legal twists and turns, the California Supreme Court sided with the union in December.

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the company's appeal.

"This decision is a clear victory for our union and all working families in our state," said Local 8 president Jacques Loveall in a prepared statement Tuesday.

Officials with Ralphs couldn't be reached for comment.

The fight began in July 2007, when Ralphs opened a nonunion Foods Co. warehouse store at the College Square shopping center near Cosumnes River Boulevard and Bruceville Road.

Representatives of Local 8 began picketing the store, urging shoppers to take their business to union shops instead. The picket line was up eight hours a day, five days a week.

In January 2008, the company told the union that the pickets couldn't station themselves within 20 feet of the store, hand out literature or have any physical contact with shoppers, according to the California Supreme Court's ruling.

The union defied those restrictions, and a few months later the company sued the UFCW in Sacramento Superior Court, arguing that the pickets were trespassing. The union won, but the state appeals court sided with the company.

The state Supreme Court voted 6-1 in favor of the union, even though the pickets were on the supermarket's property.

"Union picketing is a component of the collective bargaining process," and must be protected, the state Supreme Court ruled.

Call The Bee's Dale Kasler, (916) 321-1066. Follow him on Twitter @dakasler.

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