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Amalgamated Food Employees Union Local 590 v. Logan Valley Plaza, Inc

    Brief Fact Summary. A shopping center owner barred union members from peacefully picketing outside the shopping center. The specific store being picketed in front of was a non-union store. The union challenged this exclusion, claiming it was a public function and that their First Amendment constitutional rights prevail.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. Shopping centers serve a public function and therefore, the First Amendment of the United States Constitution (Constitution) applies.

    Facts. The Plaintiff, Logan Valley Plaza, Inc. (Plaintiff) owned a public mall that was occupied by Weiss Supermarket (Weiss) and Sears. Weiss employed only nonunion employees so the Defendant, Amalgamated Food Employees Union Local 590 (Defendant), picketed outside their parcel pickup areas. The picketing involved no violence. However, there were some instances of congestion in the parcel pickup areas. The Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas enjoined all picketing outside the shopping center. The Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas based its decision on the Plaintiff’s property rights and that the Defendant’s reason for picketing was to compel the employees of Weiss to join a union. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court affirmed the injunction on the basis that the picketing was a trespass on the Plaintiff’s property.

    Issue. Is a privately owned shopping center considered a public location, so that the First Amendment of the Constitution applies?

    Held. The Supreme Court of the United States (Supreme Court) in Marsh v. Alabama, 326 U.S. 501 (1946), held that private property may in some instance be treated as public property for First Amendment constitutional purposes. The Supreme Court analogized the private shopping center in this matter, to the business block involved in Marsh. The Supreme Court also determined that the shopping center was open to the public. Thus, the state could not by way of trespass laws, hinder access to members of the public who wished to exercise their First Amendment rights. Specifically, those who wished to exercise their First Amendment rights for a purpose consistent with how the property is used. However, this access could be tempered by the state in that the state could regulate First Amendment speech to prevent interference with the normal use of the property by others.

    Discussion. Peaceful picketing in a location open to the public, specifically a private shopping center, is protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution. The more an owner opens his property for public use, the more the owner’s rights become limited by the rights of those who use it.


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