One of the most frequent questions I receive concerns whether you can get an injunction against a union picketing a job site. The answer, like most, is that it depends. While no doubt annoying, simply displaying infamous rat, shouting, hand billing, or walking around with banners or signs is not enough to get an injunction. Injunctions against unions for picketing are limited to circumstances where ingress and egress to a structure is blocked, deliveries impeded, where there are dozens of picketers, or where there is property damage.
In Pennsylvania, injunctions against picketing are governed by the Anit-Injunction Act. Under Section 206d of the Anti-Injunction Act, a Court has the equitable power to enjoin mass picketing, violent acts and threats of violence, or any other illegal activity occurring in connection with a labor dispute. Altemose Constr. Co. v. Bldg. and Constr. Trades Council of Phila., 296 A.2d 504 (Pa. 1972) (“The Supreme Court of the United States, both before and after the Taft-Hartley (Labor-Management Relations) Act, has repeatedly held that State Courts have the power, the right and the duty to restrain violence, mass picketing and overt threats of violence, and to preserve and protect public order and safety and to prevent property damage.”) Section 206d(d) provides the Anti-Injunction Act shall not apply when:
“Where in the course of a labor dispute as herein defined, an employee, or employees acting in concert, or a labor organization, or the members, officers, agents, or representatives of a labor organization or anyone acting for such organization, seize, hold, damage, or destroy the plant, equipment, machinery, or other property of the employer with the intention of compelling the employer to accede to any demands, conditions, or terms of employment, or for collective bargaining.”
43 P.S. § 206d(d).
Where, during the course of a labor dispute, a labor organization seizes an employer’s property with the intention of compelling the employer to accede to its demands, § 206d(d) permits a trial court to issue an injunction. Turner Const. v. Plumbers Local 690, 2015 PA Super 257, 130 A.3d 47, 60 (Pa. Super. Ct. 2015)
It is well settled that the term “seizure” as used in Section 206d(d) includes blocking of entrances, mass picketing, and intimidation, and “forcibly den[ying] an owner of property or his agents and employees free access to that property.” Id. at 61. (“This Court and our High Court have consistently recognized that a seizure occurs when demonstrators interfere with the ingress and egress of visitors to the building or site.”); Neshaminy Constructors, Inc. v. Philadelphia, Pa. Bldg. & Const. Trades Council, AFL-CIO, 303 Pa.Super. 420, 424, 449 A.2d 1389, 1391 (1982)(“Whether accompanied by violence or not, picketing which denies access to an employer’s plant or property constitutes a seizure thereof and cannot be permitted.”) Giant Eagle-Markets Co. v. United Food and Commercial Workers Union, Local No. 23, 652 A.2d 1286, 1292 (Pa. 1995). It is of no significance that pickets impede ingress and egress at only one of several entrances to the premises. Neshaminy Constructors, Inc. v. Philadelphia, Pa. Bldg. & Const. Trades Council, AFL-CIO, 303 Pa.Super. 420, 424, 449 A.2d 1389, 1391 (1982). “[T]he holding of even one gateway to a plant [may] constitute[ ] a seizure” Id.
“Mass picketing constitutes a “seizure” under Section 206d when it ceases to perform its lawful purpose of placing the public on notice that a strike is underway, and instead becomes a means of influencing labor negotiations through harassment and intimidation.” Giant Eagle Markets Co. v. United Food & Commercial Workers Union, Local No. 23, 539 Pa. 411, 426, 652 A.2d 1286, 1293 (1995).
Where the labor dispute falls under Section 206d(d) injunctive relief may properly be issued even in an ex parte proceeding. Philadelphia MinitMan Car Wash Corp. v. Bldg. & Constr. Trades Council, 192 A.2d 378 (1963).
Under Section 206i of the Anti-Injunction Act a Court may properly issue an injunction if it finds that the following six factors have been established: (1) unlawful acts are being committed or threatened, and will be committed or continued if not restrained; (2) substantial and irreparable injury to complainant’s property will follow; (3) greater injury will be inflicted upon complainant by the denial of the relief sought than will be inflicted upon defendants by the granting of relief; (4) no item of relief granted is prohibited under section 206f of the Act; (5) complainant has no adequate remedy at law; and (6) the public officers charged with the duty to protect complainant’s property are unable to furnish adequate protection. 43 Pa.C.S.A. § 206i.