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Date: 11-17-2016

Case Style:

United Food v. Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

Case Number: 2016 Ark. 397

Judge: ROBIN F. WYNNE

Court: SUPREME COURT OF ARKANSAS

Plaintiff's Attorney:





*Christopher Plumlee*




*Steven D. Wheeless*




*Doug Janicik*



Defendant's Attorney:

George Wiszynski, Pro Hac Vice; and Joey Hipolito, Pro Hac Vice, United Food & Commercial Workers International Union

Description: This case is a continuation of litigation that has been ongoing between these parties
both in Arkansas and across the nation. UFCW is a national labor organization. OUR
Walmart is a subsidiary of UFCW; it is an association of current and former Walmart
employees (“associates”) and their supporters whose purpose is, in part, to help associates on
issues related to their employment. The stated purpose of the demonstrations at issue in this
case was to persuade Walmart to improve working conditions, to reinstate workers who
Walmart had terminated for speaking out for better working conditions, and to stop
retaliating against associates who speak out. Appellants have coordinated demonstrations in
Arkansas at Walmart’s home office in Bentonville and inside Walmart stores and on the
adjacent sidewalks and parking lots as follows: June 16, 2011, at the Walmart home office
(approximately 100 demonstrators); October 12, 2011, at the Walmart home office
(approximately 100 demonstrators); May 31, 2012, at the Walmart home office
(approximately 30 demonstrators); October 10, 2012, at the home office (approximately
100 demonstrators), at Walmart Store 1 in Rogers (approximately 100 demonstrators), and
at Walmart Store 1 in Bentonville (approximately 100 demonstrators); June 1, 2013, at
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Walmart Store 5 in Conway (approximately 40 demonstrators) and at Walmart Store 16 in
Van Buren (approximately 15 demonstrators). Demonstrators included both associates and
non-associates. Walmart informed appellants both during the demonstrations and via cease
and-desist letters that they were not permitted to engage in demonstrations or other non
shopping activities on its property. Appellants stipulated at trial that, absent an injunction,
they intended to continue to hold similar demonstrations on Walmart property in Arkansas.
In March 2013, Walmart filed an unfair-labor-practice (ULP) charge with the
National Labor Relations Board essentially alleging that UFCW had violated Section
8(b)(1)(A) of the NLRA2 with its in-store demonstrations, “by which the UFCW restrained
and coerced employees in the exercise of their Section 7 rights (which includes the right to
refrain from supporting the UFCW).” 3 Walmart amended the charge on May 21, 2013, to
narrow its claim and allege only that UFCW had violated Section 8(b)(1)(A) of the NLRA
by making threats of violence and attempting to make improper payments to employees to
yield to UFCW’s wishes. On May 14, 2013, Walmart filed a complaint in the Benton
County Circuit Court alleging the tort of trespass and seeking injunctive and declaratory
relief.4 The circuit court entered a temporary restraining order (TRO) following a brief
hearing, and the Union subsequently stipulated to the entry of a preliminary injunction.
The Union later filed a motion to dissolve or modify the preliminary injunction, and the
circuit court denied the motion.
2 See 29 U.S.C. § 158(b)(1)(A). 3 See 29 U.S.C. § 157. 4 In September 2013, Walmart amended its complaint to add subsidiaries and related business entities as plaintiffs.
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In an interlocutory appeal, this court affirmed the circuit court’s order denying the
Union’s motion to dissolve or modify the stipulated preliminary injunction entered in this
case. United Food & Commercial Workers Int’l Union v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 2014 Ark. 517,
451 S.W.3d 584. We did not reach the merits of the Union’s argument because the circuit
court had at least two grounds for denying the motion (judicial estoppel and the merits of
the federal preemption argument) but the Union had addressed only the preemption
argument on appeal.
A two-day bench trial was held in January 2015. Before the trial began, the Union
renewed its motion to dismiss based on its argument that the law-suit was preempted under
federal law by the NLRA; the circuit court disagreed and denied the Union’s motion. The
motion was renewed and again denied at the close of Walmart’s case and at the close of the
Union’s case. The evidence at trial included the parties’ stipulations of fact, videos of the
demonstrations, and the testimony of witnesses to the demonstrations (including a senior
manager in labor relations for Walmart, Walmart store managers, a customer, and a police
officer). Because the Union does not contend that the evidence was insufficient to support
the circuit court’s findings that the demonstrations constituted trespass and that Walmart
was entitled to a permanent injunction and a declaratory judgment, a detailed account of
the evidence is unnecessary. Suffice it to say, the parties agreed on many facts but disagreed
over the extent to which the demonstrations disrupted Walmart’s operations.
On April 9, 2015, the court entered an order finding in pertinent part as follows:
Defendants’ demonstrations involved hundreds of people engaged in: chanting; banging Walmart merchandise like drums; congregating in the parking lot; congregating on the aproning sidewalk; causing customers to swerve around demonstrators; song and dance routines on the sales floor; picketing; parades; rallies;
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hand billing; and interfering with customer shopping activity. . . . Defendants refused to leave when requested. Defendants’ actions have surpassed merely handing out information and are in the sphere of causing irreparable harm.

Plaintiffs argue that the activities stated above upset customers by interfering with their shopping experience and can ultimately deter customer shopping in general. It is impossible to know how much business has been affected by these multiple instances of disruption or how much business would be affected if Defendants are not restrained from this type of conduct. Plaintiffs have established that they are threatened with irreparable harm by Defendant’s actions. The harm to Plaintiffs is outweighed by any injury to Defendants because the injunction is very limited and restrictive in its terms. The injunction will prohibit any non-employees from engaging in non- shopping activities while on Walmart’s private property, both owned and leased, in Arkansas. Walmart’s invitation to the public to use its property is not unrestricted, but rather it is meant for customers to do business on its property. Plaintiffs do not make invitations to authorize demonstrations, parades, or public events. Rather their invitation is to use the premises for shopping purposes or in the furtherance of such purposes. Any retail easements are not made to invite general public use for non- shopping purposes, but rather to provide public access to retailers to shop, work, and conduct lawful business. These permissive easements and invitations benefit public interest by providing the means to obtain merchandise and satisfy general needs.

The circuit court found that Walmart had met the requirements for a permanent injunction
and a declaratory judgment. The injunction prohibits any non-employee appellant
defendant from engaging in any non-shopping activities on Walmart’s private property, both
owned and leased, in Arkansas. The circuit court declared that appellants’ entrance onto
Walmart private property for non-shopping purposes constitutes a trespass. The Union
timely appealed.
I. Federal Preemption
The first issue on appeal is whether the NLRA preempts Walmart’s law-suit under
the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution. The issue of preemption is a
question of law, and this court reviews questions of law de novo on appeal. Selmon v. Metro.
Life Ins. Co., 372 Ark. 420, 424, 277 S.W.3d 196, 200 (2008). The Union argues that the
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present law-suit is preempted because the ULP charge that Walmart filed with the National
Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and the law-suit filed in circuit court are the same in several
fundamental respects—containing the same legal theory, facts, and allegations, and seeking
the same remedy. The Union further argues that Walmart conceded that the NLRA
preempts its trespass claim when it filed the ULP charge arguing that the NLRA prohibits
the conduct at issue here. Finally, the Union contends that Walmart’s law-suit does not fit
the deeply rooted local interest exception to NLRA preemption because the exception
applies only to violent conduct.
The doctrine of federal preemption is based on the United States Constitution’s
Supremacy Clause. GSS, LLC v. CenterPoint Energy Gas Transmission Co., 2014 Ark. 144,
11, 432 S.W.3d 583, 590 (citing U.S. Const. art. 6, cl. 2). In any preemption analysis, the
overriding principle guiding our review is whether Congress intended to preempt state law.
Id. The burden is on the moving party to prove preemption. Id. Regarding NLRA
preemption, the United States Supreme Court has stated:
Although the NLRA itself contains no express pre-emption provision, we have held that Congress implicitly mandated two types of pre-emption as necessary to implement federal labor policy. The first, known as Garmon pre-emption, see San Diego Building Trades Council v. Garmon, 359 U.S. 236, 79 S. Ct. 773, 3 L. Ed. 2d 775 (1959), “is intended to preclude state interference with the National Labor Relations Board’s interpretation and active enforcement of the ‘integrated scheme of regulation’ established by the NLRA.” To this end, Garmon pre-emption forbids States to “regulate activity that the NLRA protects, prohibits, or arguably protects or prohibits.”5

Chamber of Commerce v. Brown, 554 U.S. 60, 65 (2008) (citations omitted).
5 The second type of preemption under the NLRA is inapplicable to the present case.
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In Sears, Roebuck & Co. v. San Diego County District Council of Carpenters, 436 U.S.
180 (1978), the United States Supreme Court held that the NLRA did not preempt Sears’s
trespass action in state court to enjoin the union from picketing on its property. Sears was
having carpentry work performed by non-union carpenters, and in response, the carpentry
union established peaceful picket lines on Sears’s property and refused to leave absent legal
action. The Sears Court analyzed whether preemption was justified under either the
“arguably protected” or the “arguably prohibited” branch of the Garmon doctrine.6 See San
Diego Bldg. Trades Council v. Garmon, 359 U.S. 236 (1959). The Court wrote:
The Court [in Farmer v. Carpenter, 430 U.S. 290 (1977),] identified those factors which warranted a departure from the general pre-emption guidelines in the “local interest” cases. Two are relevant to the arguably prohibited branch of the Garmon doctrine. First, there existed a significant state interest in protecting the citizen from the challenged conduct. Second, although the challenged conduct occurred in the course of a labor dispute and an unfair labor practice charge could have been filed, the exercise of state jurisdiction over the tort claim entailed little risk of interference with the regulatory jurisdiction of the Labor Board. Although the arguable federal violation and the state tort arose in the same factual setting, the respective controversies presented to the state and federal forums would not have been the same.

Sears, 436 U.S. at 196–97. The Court further stated that the “critical inquiry” is whether
the controversy presented to the state court is identical to or different from that which could
have been presented to the Labor Board. 436 U.S. at 197. The Court reasoned that the
issue that Sears might have presented to the Board (the objective of the picketing) was
unrelated to the issue before the state court (simple trespass—the location of the picketing),
and therefore there was no federal preemption for the “arguably prohibited” trespass case.
6 In the present case, there is no allegation by the Union that the activity at issue is “arguably protected” under the NLRA.
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In the present case, the Union attempts to distinguish Sears on the ground that, here,
Walmart did file an unfair labor practice charge with the NLRB. The Union argues that
this was a concession by Walmart that the NLRA preempts. However, Walmart amended
its unfair-labor-practice charge significantly and excluded the instances of trespassory
conduct in Arkansas, and therefore there is no danger of a conflicting ruling by the NLRB.
The bulk of the Union’s argument on this point is that the ULP charge and the law suit are
“identical” for NLRA preemption purposes because they are the same in several
fundamental respects: conduct/facts; legal theory; and remedy. However, the ULP charge
alleged unfair labor practices, while the law-suit alleged common-law trespass. The NLRB
does not regulate trespass, and the unfair labor practice allegation would not turn on where
the challenged conduct occurred. Thus, we agree with Walmart that the controversy
presented to the circuit court is not identical to, but is different from, that which could have
been presented to the Labor Board. Sears is on point and leads to the conclusion that the
present law suit is not preempted by the NLRA. Finally, we reject the Union’s argument
that Walmart’s law suit does not fit the deeply rooted local interest exception to NLRA
preemption because the exception applies only to violent conduct. Sears involved only
peaceful protests, and just as in Sears, the controversy presented to the state court in the
present case is different from that which could have been presented to the Labor Board.
Thus, “[t]he reasons why pre-emption of state jurisdiction is normally appropriate when
union activity is arguably prohibited by federal law plainly do not apply to this situation;
they therefore are insufficient to preclude a State from exercising jurisdiction limited to the
trespassory aspects of that activity.” Sears, 436 U.S. at 198.
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The preemption issue presented in this appeal has been extensively litigated in other
jurisdictions. We note that appellate courts in California, Colorado, Florida, Maryland, and
Texas have issued opinions in similar cases between these parties and expressly rejected the
Union’s preemption argument. Walmart Stores, Inc. v. United Food & Commercial Workers
Int’l Union, No. B259926, 2016 WL 5957279 (Cal. Ct. App. Oct. 14, 2016); Wal-Mart
Stores, Inc. v. United Food & Commercial Workers Int’l Union, No. 14CA2061, 2016 WL
2605737 (Colo. App. May 5, 2016), cert. denied, No. 16SC478, 2016 WL 5723926 (Col.
Oct. 3, 2016); United Food & Commercial v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 192 So. 3d 585 (Fla. Dist.
Ct. App. 2016); United Food & Commercial Workers Int’l Union v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 137
A.3d 355 (Md. App. 2016), cert. granted, No. 242, 2016 WL 5723986 (Md. Sept. 2, 2016);
Walmart Stores, Inc. v. United Food & Commercial Workers Int’l Union, No. 02-15-00374-CV,
2016 WL 6277370 (Tex. Ct. App. Oct. 27, 2016). Only Washington has found that
Walmart’s state-court suit was preempted by the NLRA. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. United
Food & Commercial Workers Int’l Union, 190 Wash. App. 14, 354 P.3d 31 (2015).
In sum, we agree with the majority of jurisdictions that have decided this issue. We
hold that the NLRA does not preempt Walmart’s trespass law suit and affirm the circuit
court’s ruling on this point.
II. Common Areas that Walmart Does Not “Exclusively Possess”
For its second point on appeal, the Union argues that to claim trespass on shopping
center common areas that Walmart owns but does not presently hold the right to exclusively
possess, Walmart must prove that they (appellants) unreasonably interfered with its rights to
use its property. At issue are shopping-center common areas, such as parking lots and
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sidewalks that Walmart owns, but that are subject to broad, nonexclusive easements granted
to other businesses in the shopping center for use by their workers, customers, and invitees.
Citing argument by Walmart’s counsel in a Colorado case, appellants state that Walmart has
conceded that for its building-only leased stores (where Walmart has a nonexclusive
easement to use the common areas) it does not have the right to exclusively possess the
common areas necessary to claim trespass based on appellants’ mere presence and must
instead show that appellants unreasonably interfere with Walmart’s use of those areas.
We first note that appellants do not cite a single case that stands for the proposition
they are advancing. Instead, they make the irrelevant point that Walmart cannot exclusively
possess or use these common areas in a way that would interfere with the easement-holders’
rights. They rely on cases that concern leased property, not non-exclusive easements. E.g.,
Coastal Oil & Gas Corp. v. Garza Energy Trust, 268 S.W.3d 1 (Tex. 2008) (owner of leased
mineral rights may only sue for trespass alleging damage to his reversionary interest). Here,
Walmart has retained the right to possess its common areas, and its possessory rights include
the right to exclude those who are not lawfully present. We affirm the circuit court’s ruling
on this point.
III. Scope—“All Non-shopping Activity”
Finally, the Union argues that the injunction and declaration are overly broad as to
their scope in that they prohibit “all non-shopping activity,” which includes non-disruptive
conduct that Walmart neither objected to nor proved cause it irreparable harm. Walmart
responds that any activity on Walmart property that falls outside the scope of Walmart’s
limited invitation to the public for conduct consistent with shopping is an unlawful civil
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trespass that can be enjoined. Walmart argues that “[t]here should be no loophole in the
injunction for Defendants to exploit.” We agree with the Union on this point and modify
the circuit court’s order as set out below.
Irreparable harm is the touchstone of injunctive relief. Delancy v. State, 356 Ark.
259, 265, 151 S.W.3d 301, 305 (2004). Arkansas Rule of Civil Procedure 65(d)(1) (2015)
governs the contents of injunctions and provides as follows: “Every order granting an
injunction and every restraining order must (A) state the reasons why it issued; (B) state its
terms specifically; and (C) describe in reasonable detail—and not by referring to the
complaint or other document—the act or acts restrained or required.” Like a statute
describing a crime, the court’s injunction must be sufficiently definite so that one bound by
it will know what act or acts are either required or enjoined. 2 David A. Newbern et al.,
Arkansas Civil Practice and Procedure § 35:6 (5th ed.). Given the requirement of proving
irreparable harm coupled with Rule 65’s specificity requirement, we agree with the Union
that the circuit court order’s injunction and declaration encompassing all non-shopping
activity or conduct is simply too broad on this record.

Outcome:

Based on the above, we hereby modify the circuit court’s order to include the following language after the words “non-shopping activities” and “non-shopping conduct” on page 3 and “non-shopping purposes” on page 5: “such as picketing, patrolling, parading, demonstrations, “flash mobs,” handbilling, solicitation, and manager confrontations.” This language was included in the preliminary injunction and properly limits the scope of the order to those activities that were proven by Walmart to cause irreparable harm.
Affirmed as modified.

Plaintiff's Experts:

Defendant's Experts:

Comments:

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DEBORAH T. RIORDAN


 
 
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