In a potentially important case, a federal appeals court has ruled that the First Amendment does not give labor unions the right to engage in a pattern of bad-faith litigation:
The case is Waugh Chapel South, LLC v. United Food and Commercial Workers. In it, the developer of a shopping center whose tenants included a Wegmans, a non-union grocery store, was sued 14 times by UFCW. Most of the cases involved challenges to permitting decisions and were dismissed or rendered moot. In one instance, the case was withdrawn after the developer subpoenaed the union’s financial records.
Waugh Chapel South alleged the cases reflected a pattern of harassment. In their complaint, the company said a union official promised to “fight every project you develop where Wegmans is a tenant.” UFCW countered that it had a First Amendment to make such complaints right under a 1965 Supreme Court case, United Mine Workers v. Pennington.
A three- judge panel rejected that argument. “In light of the poor litigation record and the signs of bad-faith petitioning, a factfinder could reasonably conclude that the unions have abused their right to petition the courts and, as a result, have forfeited the protection of the First Amendment,” they wrote.