LITTLE ROCK — The Arkansas Supreme Court on Thursday upheld but modified a circuit judge’s ruling limiting union activities on the property of Wal-Mart stores in Arkansas.
In April 2015, a Benton County Circuit judge issued a permanent injunction barring the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union from engaging in any nonshopping activities on Walmart’s private property, owned or leased, in the state. The judge declared that the union’s entrance onto Wal-Mart’s property for nonshopping purposes constituted trespassing.
The union appealed the ruling to the state’s top court. On Thursday the state Supreme Court rejected arguments by the union that the lawsuit by Wal-Mart that led to the ruling was preempted by the National Labor Relations Act and that Wal-Mart could not claim trespass on shopping center-common areas such as parking lots and sidewalks.
The union also argued that the injunction was overly broad because it covered nondisruptive activities that Wal-Mart had not objected to and that it had not proven would cause it irreparable harm.
On that point the Supreme Court agreed with the union. In an opinion written by Justice Robin Wynne, the court affirmed the injunction but modified it to add, after the words “nonshopping activities,” “such as picketing, patrolling, parading, demonstrations, flash mobs, handbilling, solicitation and manager confrontations.”
Justice Josephine Hart wrote in a separate opinion that she concurred in the decision to affirm the injunction but dissented from the Supreme Court’s decision to modify it without giving the union an opportunity for an adversarial hearing.
“Further, picketing, patrolling, parading, demonstrations, hand billing, and solicitation are all protected activities under the right circumstances. It behooves this court to return this case to the circuit court where an order that clearly does not run afoul of the National Labor Relations Act can be crafted with the assistance of the litigants,” Hart wrote.
Justice Courtney Goodson wrote in a separate opinion that she concurred in the decision to affirm the injunction but said she was writing separately to state her view that the Supreme Court should not have considered the question of preemption because it had previously ruled on that issue when the union appealed a preliminary injunction in the case.
Justice Karen Baker joined in Goodson’s concurring opinion.