CWS Client Defeats the NLRB’s Request for a Preliminary Injunction that Would Have Prevented the Use of an Inflated Rat and Other Free Speech

July 1, 2019

On July 1, 2019, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York rejected a request by the National Labor Relations Board for a preliminary injunction that would have enjoined the Union’s protest activity directed at a Staten Island supermarket chain.  The underlying dispute centers on the supermarket agreeing to move one of its stores into a new shopping center that is being constructed with non-union workers paid wages and benefits below the area standard.  In an attempt to “shame” the supermarket for the move, Local 79 of the Laborers began in late April 2019 erecting inflated balloons—often a rat, but sometimes a cockroach too—distributing leaflets, and holding a single lunch-time rally outside the current supermarkets.  In response, the Regional Director for Region 29 issued a complaint that Local 79 had violated the National Labor Relations Act’s so-called secondary boycott provisions by “enmeshing” the supermarket in the Union’s dispute with the non-union construction company.  Pending resolution of that complaint, which is to be tried before an administrative law judge, the Regional Director sought a preliminary injunction against all Union activity directed at the supermarket other than the distribution of leaflets.  In refusing to issue such a “remarkably broad” injunction, the district court held that the Union’s “peaceful” and “expressive” conduct was lawful under current NLRB case law, and more importantly, the conduct was protected by the First Amendment.  The district court’s decision can be found here.  Local 79 is represented by CWS partner Joseph Vitale and Tamir Rosenblum, General Counsel for the Mason Tenders District Council of Greater New York.

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