July 16, 2019

Colorado Court of Appeals: Permanent Injunction Barring Trespass Not Preempted by NLRA

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. United Food & Commercial Workers International Union on Thursday, May 5, 2016.

Unions—Trespass—Permanent Injunction—National Labor Relations Act—Preemption—Subject Matter Jurisdiction.

United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) and Organization United for Respect at Walmart (collectively, unions) engaged in demonstrations at Walmart stores at several locations in Colorado. In response, Walmart mailed a letter to UFCW’s general counsel asking him to direct the unions to immediately cease protesting on Walmart’s property. When the activities continued, Walmart filed an unfair labor practice charge (labor charge) with the National Labor Relations Board (Board), claiming that the unions violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). This charge was later dismissed by Walmart. However, Walmart then filed a complaint for injunctive and declaratory relief from trespass in district court, requesting a permanent injunction enjoining the unions from engaging in certain types of activities on Walmart’s property. The unions filed a motion to dismiss under C.R.C.P. 12(b)(1), claiming the NLRA preemption deprived the district court of subject matter jurisdiction. The court denied the motion and then granted Walmart’s motion for summary judgment.

On appeal, the unions argued that the district court erred in denying their motion to dismiss because Walmart’s lawsuit is preempted by the NLRA. The federal issue in Walmart’s labor charge is unrelated to the trespass issue in Walmart’s state claim, and therefore the controversies are not identical. The NLRA does not arguably prohibit, and thus does not preempt, Walmart’s state claim to enjoin the unions from trespassing on its premises.

The unions also argued that, assuming the district court has subject matter jurisdiction over their activities, it applied the incorrect legal standard and erred by granting Walmart’s motion for summary judgment and permanently enjoining the unions from trespassing at Walmart-owned stores that are subject to Walmart’s nonexclusive easements over the property. The unions contended that because the properties contain nonexclusive easements, Walmart does not have exclusive possession of them and the district court should have required Walmart to show that the unions’ activity unreasonably interfered with Walmart’s use and enjoyment of the property. The unions do not dispute that Walmart possesses and has title to the property in question. Thus, to sustain its trespass claim, Walmart only had to prove that the unions entered its property without its permission. Accordingly, the court did not abuse its discretion by issuing the injunction.

The judgment was affirmed.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

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