Signs in Car Windows are a Lawful Form of Picketing

The collective bargaining agreement between the company and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) union prohibited “picketing of any of the Company’s premises” during the term of the contract. The union had a long-standing practice of commencing informational picketing before the expiration of each previous contract. Recently, the union passed out picket signs to employees bearing the messages “Honor Our Contract.” Employees placed these signs inside the windows of their personal vehicles when they parked in the Company’s lot during their work shifts. The Company instructed the employees to remove the signs.

Whether the signs in the car windows violated the no-picketing rule was arbitrated. The arbitration panel concluded 2-1 that the union members violated the contractual ban by stating, “Picketing does not have to be a sign on a stick.” On appeal, the National Labor Relations Board reversed the arbitration panel concluding that the arbitration award was “devoid of any reasoning to support its conclusion that the conflict constitutes picketing.” Further, the arbitrators failed to point to evidence that the contract was intended to cover window displays in parked cars. While the Board conceded that the display of stationary signs may constitute picketing under the National Labor Relations Act, it said “in such cases, the Board has relied on the presence of individuals in the area where the signs were stationed.”

Matt Austin is a lawyer based in the Columbus, Ohio office of Roetzel & Andress, LPA who limits his practice to representing employers dealing with labor, employment, and OSHA matters. You can call Matt at (614) 723-2010 or email him at maustin@ralaw.com.

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