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Arizona Union Law Called Unconstitutional

PHOENIX (CN) - Two labor unions say a new Arizona law unconstitutionally criminalizes "unreasonable" demonstrations by unions and allows defamation lawsuits to be brought against unions for negligent speech, in defiance of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

The United Food and Commercial Workers Local 99 and the Local Union No. 469 of the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipefitting Industry of the United States and Canada claim sued Gov. Jan Brewer in Federal Court.

The unions claim that State Bill 1363, signed into law in April, "expanded employer remedies for union violations of an anti-picketing statute already struck down as unconstitutional by the Arizona Supreme Court."

The law prohibits "labor picketing of any establishment where a majority of workers have not yet decided to support such picketing, a prohibition clearly violating the picketers' rights of free speech," the complaint states.

The unions say SB 1363 violates the First and 14th Amendment rights of union members by failing to define what an "unreasonable" demonstration is, and by vaguely explaining that "it should not be construed to violate federally-protected rights."

The unions say that "ordinary union members do not have constitutional law scholars at their beck and call while they are out demonstrating."

The bill also allows additional punishments for secondary boycotts despite the U.S. Supreme Court's finding that "state laws cannot seek to provide ... secondary boycott provisions of federal labor law," according to the complaint.

The unions also complain that SB 1636 allows defamation suits to be brought against unions for negligence in speech though the U.S. Supreme Court has declared that in labor disputes "the standard is the higher one of intentional falsity or recklessness." The unions and their members also claim the bill violates "constitutional prohibitions against impairment of contractual obligations" because it punishes an employer who deducts dues "merely because such employee later changes his mind, even when the employee is violating his own contractual promise in the checkoff agreement to pay dues for a longer period."

They say that SB 1363 also prevents law enforcement officers from asking an employer who wants union members removed from its property for proof of the employer's right to make such a request, "merely because the employer without giving notice to the union persuaded the Secretary of State to place this employer on a 'No Trespass' list published by the secretary, a form of notice not compliant with due process because mail and personal notice are both easily done by the employer instead."

The unions say that in many such "trespass" situations, union members' rights are protected by the National Labor Relations Act because.

The unions seek an injunction against enforcement of SB 1636 and a declaration that the law is unconstitutional.

They are represented by Andrew Kahn with Davis, Cowell, and Bowe, and Gerald Barrett with Ward, Keenan, and Barrett.

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