ST. LOUIS (CN) - The St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission and the city are violating a union's right to free speech by refusing to allow it to pass out handbills inside an auto show, the UAW claims in Federal Court.
The United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW) wants to hand out the flyers to publicize actions by Toyota that the union says could destroy the jobs of thousands of UAW members.
The UAW met with the defendants, who are hosting the auto show from Jan. 28-31 at America's Center. The union says the defendants would allow its members to distribute the pamphlets only at the doors and not inside the event.
The UAW said passing out handbills at the doors causes significant impediments because the four entrances are far away from each other and three of them have multiple doors. Also, the temperature predicted for St. Louis during the show is between 10 and 21 degrees, making it difficult to reach patrons who are rushing inside to escape the cold.
Auto shows in other cities have allowed the UAW to pass out similar handbills inside the show, the complaint states.
The UAW claims the defendants never gave them a legal reason for not allowing them to pass out the pamphlets inside the show and by doing so, ignored the city's own ordinance that allows such activity.
The complaint states that the union wants to protest "both the recent product record of Toyota and actions by Toyota that will result in the closure of a manufacturing plant that will have a devastating impact on UAW members."
Toyota has been hit by the recession and by a problem with the accelerator pedal sticking on some models. It announced this week that it will stop producing those models until it fixes the problem.
The UAW is represented by Christopher Hexter with Schuchat, Cook & Werner.
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