Arkansas court overturns trespass ban against union targeting Wal-Mart workers

Thursday, July 3rd 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) _ Arkansas' Supreme Court on Thursday overturned a ruling that had barred a labor union from soliciting for members at Wal-Mart and Sam's Club stores nationwide.

The world's largest retailer failed to show that irreparable harm resulted from solicitations by members of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union at Wal-Mart stores, the high court ruled.

Without such harm, the court said, an injunction issued last year by Chancellor Jim D. Spears of Fort Smith was clearly erroneous. The injunction was based on state trespassing law.

The union maintained Wal-Mart used a local judge to stifle free speech and suppress workers' rights to organize.

``It's a clear victory for common sense and the rule of law,'' UFCW spokesman Al Zack said of the ruling Thursday.

Wal-Mart spokeswoman Sarah Clark said the Bentonville-based company was still reviewing the order, ``but in general, we remain committed to protecting our stores, associates and customers from aggressive and unsolicited actions.''

The permanent injunction had prohibited the union from soliciting in Wal-Mart Stores buildings and stores in the United States, including Supercenters, Sam's Clubs and Neighborhood Market grocery stores.

Wal-Mart won the restraining order after organizers went to about 300 Supercenters around the nation in September 1999. It said the union representatives were trespassing and harassing workers, among other things.

The union, which claims 1.4 million members in North America, accused Wal-Mart of improperly trying to deny organizers access to workers, arguing that charitable groups are allowed to solicit inside Wal-Mart and other stores and that union organizers should have equal access.

Wal-Mart, with more than 3,400 domestic stores, has said it provides open communication between workers and management and sees no need for third-party representation.