Kaplan's Fruit & Produce Co. v. Superior Court, AFL-CI

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court (California)
Writing for the CourtTOBRINER; NEWMAN
Citation160 Cal.Rptr. 745,603 P.2d 1341,26 Cal.3d 60
Decision Date14 December 1979
Docket NumberR,AFL-CI
Parties, 603 P.2d 1341, 88 Lab.Cas. P 55,243 KAPLAN'S FRUIT & PRODUCE COMPANY, INC., Petitioner, v. SUPERIOR COURT OF LOS ANGELES COUNTY, Respondent; UNITED FARM WORKERS OF AMERICA,eal Party in Interest. L.A. 31025.

Hill, Farrer & Burrill, Stanley E. Tobin and James G. Johnson, Los Angeles, for petitioner.

No appearance for respondent.

Jerome Cohen, Sanford N. Nathan, Tom Dalzell, Deborah Wiener Peyton, W. Daniel Boone, Ellen Greenstone, Salinas, Glenn Rothner, Los Angeles, E. Michael Heumann, II, Linton Joaquin, Kirsten L. Zerger, Dianna C. Lyons and George C. Lazar, Salinas, for real party in interest.

Dressler, Stoll & Jacobs, Donald G. Dressler, Charley M. Stoll, Marion I. Quesenbery, Newport Beach, Littler, Mendelson, Fastiff & Tichy, Jordan L. Bloom, Fresno, Randolph C. Roeder, Marvin J. Brenner and Ellen Lake, Sacramento, as amici curiae on behalf of real party in interest.

TOBRINER, Acting Chief Justice.

In an agricultural labor dispute, petitioner Kaplan's Fruit & Produce Company, Inc. (Kaplan's) sought a preliminary injunction to restrain pickets of real party in interest United Farm Workers of America (Union) from obstructing ingress and egress to Kaplan's wholesale facility in Los Angeles. 1 The superior court found "mass picketing which interferes with ingress and egress," but ruled that lacking evidence of violence or threat of violence it had no jurisdiction to grant injunctive relief. Kaplan's filed the instant petition for mandate to compel the superior court to issue a preliminary injunction.

Prior decisions of the United States Supreme Court and of the California courts establish the jurisdiction of local courts to enjoin interference with access in a suit by a private litigant. The Union maintains, however, that two recent California statutes, the Agricultural Labor Relations Act (ALRA) ( Lab.Code, § 1140 et seq.) and the Moscone Act (Code Civ.Proc., § 527.3) divest the superior court of such jurisdiction. We explain our reasons for rejecting that contention.

Since the National Labor Relations Act (29 U.S.C. § 151 et seq.), served as the model for the ALRA, decisions interpreting the national act are persuasive in construing the California law. Those decisions hold that the exclusive jurisdiction of the NLRB to adjudicate charges of unfair labor practices does not preempt the power of the local court to enjoin obstructions to access; they indicate that, because blocking of customer access does not in itself constitute an unfair labor practice, an injunction restraining such conduct presents no significant risk of an impairment of board adjudication. Following the federal precedents, we construe the ALRA to permit superior courts to enjoin obstruction to access in private suits for injunctive relief.

In the Moscone Act, Code of Civil Procedure section 527.3, subdivision (b), bars injunctions against "peaceful picketing." Construing that language in light of existing law as required by subdivision (a) of the act, and in accord with subdivision (e)'s declaration of legislative intent not to permit unlawful obstruction of ingress and egress, we conclude that picketing which obstructs access is not "peaceful" picketing protected by the statute. Accordingly, we conclude that the act does not divest the superior court of jurisdiction to enjoin such picketing.

We decline, however, to mandate the superior court to issue a preliminary injunction as requested by Kaplan's. The record suggests that the court, because it believed it lacked jurisdiction to issue an injunction, did not carefully weigh the evidence and decide whether the facts required such relief. We therefore mandate the superior court to vacate its order denying a preliminary injunction, permitting it to reconsider, in light of this opinion, whether to grant the relief requested.

1. Proceedings before the courts and the ALRB.

The Union won a representation election at Kaplan's Porterville farm in 1975 and was certified as collective bargaining agent by the ALRB in January of 1976. Two years of bargaining failed to produce a collective bargaining agreement. In November 1977, the Union began picketing at Kaplan's wholesale outlet in Los Angeles.

On December 9, 1977, Kaplan's petitioned the superior court for injunctive relief and obtained a temporary restraining order. On December 20, 1977, the superior court heard Kaplan's request for a preliminary injunction. At the outset of the hearing, the court expressed the opinion that our decision in the first Sears case (Sears, Roebuck & Co. v. San Diego County Dist. Council of Carpenters (1976) 17 Cal.3d 893, 132 Cal.Rptr. 443, 553 P.2d 603, revd. (1978) 436 U.S. 180, 98 S.Ct. 1745, 56 L.Ed.2d 209) might deprive it of jurisdiction to enjoin picketing absent evidence of violence. Argument before the superior court centered upon this issue, and neither party presented evidence, apart from affidavits filed previously, to show what occurred during the picketing. At the close of the hearing the court denied the request for injunctive relief, finding that there was "mass picketing which interferes with ingress and egress from petitioner's property but that there is insufficient evidence of violence or threat of violence to support a preliminary injunction."

When it filed its complaint in the superior court, Kaplan's also presented to the ALRB a charge of unfair labor practice. On February 17, 1978, the regional counsel for ALRB declined to issue a complaint, stating that the board's investigation revealed that "the UFW (Union) did Not conduct mass picketing or block access to the Kaplan stand." Kaplan's appealed to the general counsel, who responded that "Investigation revealed that the picketing in front of charging party's premises was primary activity and that the manner in which it was conducted did not violate any provision of the ALRA."

Kaplan's then sought mandate from the Court of Appeal to compel the superior court to grant the preliminary injunction. The Court of Appeal issued an alternative writ, thereby determining that Kaplan's appellate remedy was inadequate. 2 The Court of Appeal subsequently issued a preemptory writ as prayed; we granted a petition for hearing.

Although its pleadings below speak in broader terms, Kaplan's answer to the petition for hearing in this court and its presentation at oral argument demonstrate that it does not seek to enjoin mass picketing apart from its effect in obstructing access to Kaplan's premises. We therefore limit our opinion to the question of superior court jurisdiction to enjoin obstruction of access.

2. The Agricultural Labor Relations Act does not divest the superior court of jurisdiction to enjoin obstruction to access in a private action for injunctive relief.

Labor Code section 1160.9 provides expressly that the procedures set forth in the ALRA "shall be the exclusive method of redressing unfair labor practices." Despite the absence from the NLRA of words conferring "exclusive jurisdiction" on the federal board, "The United States Supreme Court has interpreted the NLRA as providing the exclusive means of redressing unfair labor practices." (Belridge Farms v. Agricultural Labor Relations Bd. (1978) 21 Cal.3d 551, 558, 147 Cal.Rptr. 165, 170, 580 P.2d 665, 670.) "Thus," we concluded, "section 1160.9 simply constitutes a codification of existing federal law." (Id.)

Accordingly, in defining the scope of preemption under section 1160.9, we adhere to the Legislature's directive in Labor Code section 1148 to "follow applicable precedents of the National Labor Relations Act, as amended." As explained in People v. Medrano (1978) 78 Cal.App.3d 198, 205, 144 Cal.Rptr. 217, 221: "In designating the NLRA precedents as guideposts, the ALRA apparently incorporates into California law the general features of the (federal) preemption doctrine." We therefore look to cases interpreting the NLRA as a guide to the determination of whether the ALRA preempts the power of superior courts to enjoin obstructions to access in a private suit. 3

The decisions of the United States Supreme Court interpreting the federal act establish the general principle that the NLRB has exclusive jurisdiction over conduct which arguably involves practices either Protected or Prohibited under the NLRA. (San Diego Unions v. Garmon (1959) 359 U.S. 236, 79 S.Ct. 773, 3 L.Ed.2d 775.) Those decisions recognize, however, as an exception to the general rule of preemption, the power of local courts and agencies to adjudicate matters of particular local concern. (See Auto Workers v. Wisconsin Board (1956) 351 U.S. 266, 76 S.Ct. 794, 100 L.Ed. 1162 (violence); Linn v. Plant Guard Workers (1966) 383 U.S. 53, 86 S.Ct. 657, 15 L.Ed.2d 582 (libel); Farmer v. Carpenters (1977) 430 U.S. 290, 97 S.Ct. 1056, 51 L.Ed.2d 338 (infliction of emotional distress); Sears, Roebuck & Co. v. Carpenters (1978) 436 U.S. 180, 98 S.Ct. 1745, 56 L.Ed.2d 209 (trespass).) The decisions specifically acknowledge that local courts and agencies retain jurisdiction over private actions to enjoin obstructions to access. (See Auto Workers v. Wisconsin Board, supra, 351 U.S. 266, 274, 76 S.Ct. 794, 100 L.Ed. 1162; Youngdahl v. Rainfair, Inc. (1957) 355 U.S. 131, 78 S.Ct. 206, 2 L.Ed.2d 151.)

In Auto Workers, the Wisconsin Employment Relations Board enjoined the Union from, among other matters, "Obstructing or interfering in any way with entrance to and egress from the premises of (the employer.)" (351 U.S. at pp. 269-270, fn. 3, 76 S.Ct. at 797, fn. 3.) The Supreme Court noted that the union's conduct, to the extent that it coerced employees, was an unfair labor practice, and that as a general rule states may not enjoin conduct which constitutes unfair labor practices. "But . . . this general rule does not take from the States power to prevent mass picketing, violence, and overt threats of violence."...

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