Union Foolishly Persists, Wasting Time and Resources

In 2011, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) and its co-conspirators started invading Maryland Walmart stores and harassing customers and staff. Perhaps the UFCW thought it could get away with its outrageous behavior in a union-friendly state or that the federal courts would weigh in on its behalf. But, either way, it was in for a series of surprises.

The UFCW claims that it launched this campaign of harassment to improve working conditions for Walmart employees and that it does not wish to represent Walmart workers itself. Of course, since the UFCW is at least as honest as any unscrupulous used car salesman, its claims may or may not be accurate.

During this campaign, which went on for several years, the UFCW would assemble “flash mobs” to block traffic, block check-out lanes, sing, dance, scream, use bullhorns indoors, litter, confront managers, force their way into management meetings, etc. UFCW protesters would then refuse to leave as they were instructed to do by Walmart managers. The police would be called, and they would order the protesters to leave.

In response to this harassment, Walmart lawyers repeatedly sent cease and desist letters to the UFCW; and the union stubbornly refused to honor them. So, in March of 2013, Walmart filed an unfair labor practice complaint with the National Labor Relations Board accusing the union of coercing Walmart employees to join the union.

In September of 2013, Walmart filed a lawsuit against the UFCW for trespassing and nuisance in Maryland’s Anne Arundel County. The UFCW filed a motion to dismiss the case, which was denied. Walmart requested a preliminary injunction preventing the union from trespassing on company property; the UFCW argued that the state’s trespassing law was preempted by federal labor law. Rejecting the union’s argument, the court issued a preliminary injunction just before Black Friday in 2013 and a permanent injunction in early 2015.

The permanent injunction prohibited UFCW from entering Walmart property in Maryland for the purpose of “picketing, patrolling, parading, demonstrations, chanting, ‘flash mobs,’ handbilling, solicitation, customer disruptions, manager delegations or confrontations, or associate engagement for a non-shopping purpose.” The injunction also prohibited

“Interfering with, obstructing or blocking Walmart’s and its customers’ access to, and use of, easements and/or right-of-ways granted by  Walmart across or upon apron sidewalks and parking lots adjacent to stores for which Walmart has a “building only” lease; and engaging in any nuisance conduct off Walmart’s private property which disrupts and/or interferes with Walmart customers’ or associates’ access to, or ability to move around or exit, Walmart private property…”

Hoping for a more favorable ruling, the UFCW appealed the circuit court’s decision to the Maryland Court of Special Appeals. That court unanimously affirmed the lower court’s ruling.

Still not able to accept that it was wrong, the UFCW appealed to the highest court in the state, the Court of Appeals. Late last month, the court handed down its decision. Once again, the UFCW’s arguments were found to be without merit, and the Court of Appeals unanimously affirmed the ruling of the Court of Special Appeals. In other words, the UFCW’s lawyers could not persuade even one of the seven judges on the Court of Appeals – whether appointed by a Republican or a Democrat – to side with the union.

For over three years, the UFCW spent its members’ money paying lawyers to fight a losing battle with Walmart in Maryland courts, and the union has absolutely nothing to show for it. Of course, the union tried its shenanigans at Walmart stores in a number of other states. And judges from California to Ohio to Florida also told the UFCW to stop trespassing on Walmart property.

Throughout its fight with Walmart, the UFCW has behaved shamefully: trespassing; harassing customers, employees, and management; ignoring cease and desist letters; and then defending its outrageous behavior year after year in the courts. It’s time for the UFCW to learn and follow the law, and stop wasting its members’ money – along with taxpayers’ money – on frivolous litigation.

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