Bill seeks to ban picketing in Tennessee

Bill seeks to ban picketing in Tennessee

Attorney general says bill is unconstitutional

March 19th, 2014 by Andy Sher in Local - Breaking News

U.S. Pipe workers strike in this file photo.

Robert Cooper

Photo by The Tennessean /Times Free Press.

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."