Walmart Sues Unions for Trespassing

Last October, Walmart employees in at least 12 cities walked off their jobs in protest of alleged low wages, poor working conditions, and retaliation against workers. The walk offs were loosely organized by the United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW). On May 10, Walmart Stores, Inc. filed suit in California to stop two organizations, the UFCW and the Organization United for Respect at Walmart (“OUR Walmart”), from trespassing in any of its California stores or other geographic areas. Wal-Mart Stores v. United Food & Commercial Workers Union (Cal. Super. Ct. 2013). According to Walmart, these organizations continued to trespass despite repeated cease-and-desist notices.

In its suit, Walmart is relying on California’s Moscone Act to allege that the two organizations violated state law by illegally trespassing inside many stores, disrupting business, damaging property, engaging in disorderly conduct, annoying and harassing customers, and blocking access to some stores. The Moscone Act gives labor groups the right to engage in certain labor-related activities outside company stores so long as the groups act peacefully and in compliance with the law. Walmart has asserted that trespassing and other in-store conduct are not protected activities under the Moscone Act or any other California law. The UFCW and OUR Walmart responded that they “have the right to enter inside Walmart’s stores in California and use Walmart’s sales floor where customers shop and associates work for their own purposes.”

In December 2012, the California Supreme Court decided a case interpreting the Moscone Act. In Ralphs Grocery Company v. United Food & Commercial Workers Union Local 8, the court held that labor members and demonstrators who are disorderly, block access to or egress from the store, disturb the peace, or engage in some other unlawful activity, are trespassing. Given UFCW’s and OUR Walmart’s disruptions to Walmart’s operations, customers, and productivity, the court will likely hold that the organizations trespassed in violation of the Moscone Act.

Similar to the Moscone Act, the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) guarantees the right of employees to organize and bargain collectively with their employers, but employers need not permit outside organizers on their property. Strikers who engage in serious misconduct during a strike may be denied reinstatement to their former jobs. Serious misconduct includes physically blocking people from entering or leaving a work site. MSEC is available to assist our members with strikes, walkouts, and other union organizing activity.