published Wednesday, March 19th, 2014

Bill seeks to ban picketing in Tennessee

Attorney general says bill is unconstitutional

NASHVILLE - A bill moving in the state House that bans "mass picketing" by unions is unconstitutional, Tennessee Attorney General Robert Cooper says in a legal opinion.

Cooper's written opinion says the bill violates free speech rights under the First Amendment and targets unions. It may also violate the National Labor Relations Act, Cooper opined.

House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner sought the opinion on the bill, filed by Rep. Jeremy Durham, R-Franklin, and Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown. The House Consumer Affairs Subcommittee approved it last month. It's been scheduled for a vote in the full committee next week.

“HB1688 presents a content-based restriction upon speech. It would criminalize ‘any form of mass picketing activity in the context of a strike, lockout, or other labor dispute’,” the opinion says.

It notes the bill "includes labor-dispute-specific proscriptions on conduct that do not apply in non-labor contexts. Furthermore, the injunction provision of HB1688… would establish a different standard for business and private-property owners who are the targets of labor-related mass picketing.”

One of Turner’s questions was whether the bill amounted to an “invalid” restriction on speech under the First Amendment. Cooper's short reply, before presenting a detailed legal analysis of prior court decisions, was “yes.”

about Andy Sher...

Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...

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