LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – A labour union that has demonstrated against Wal-Mart Stores Inc. asked the Arkansas Supreme Court Thursday to reverse a judge’s decision barring it from entering the retail giant’s property for anything other than shopping.
Attorneys for the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union and Wal-Mart argued that the National Labor Relations Board, not the Benton County judge, should have jurisdiction over the matter.
Wal-Mart had sought the order against the union and the Organization United for Respect at Wal-Mart in response to the group demonstrating and picketing at its stores over its pay and benefits.
George Wiszynski, the attorney for the union, said the Bentonville-based company’s trespassing complaint was nearly identical to one it had also filed with the national board.
“At the end of the day, Wal-Mart relied on the same conduct for its unfair labour practice, its National Labor Relations Board charge as it does for its lawsuit,” Wiszynski told justices.
Wal-Mart’s attorney, however, said trespassing is a state issue and was properly before the judge.
“Trespass, repeated, defiant trespass absolutely is a significant state interest,” Steven Wheeless told justices. “Second, there is no risk of interference between a state court hearing a trespass claim and a labour board hearing about a labour violation that arose during the trespass.”
Wal-Mart sued the union over the demonstrations, which it said has included “flash mobs” where demonstrators have banged on pots and pans march and chant through its stores. Other activities have included rallies and picketing at its stores and offices, the company said. The retail giant has filed similar suits against the union in Florida and Texas in recent years.
The union has also argued that the judge’s order was too broad since it bars entering Wal-Mart’s property for “non-shopping” activities, rather than barring the demonstrations and other conduct that prompted the retail giant’s complaint.
The justices did not indicate when they would rule in the case.
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This story has been corrected to show the judge is from Benton County, not Washington County.