In a 2-1 decision, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco overturned restrictions on picketing imposed by a company that manages shopping centers in Santa Cruz and Sacramento.
The decision follows a California Supreme Court ruling in December that declared unions have the right under state law to leaflet in malls and ask shoppers to boycott stores. By contrast, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the U.S. Constitution does not protect freedom of speech in malls or any other private property.
Monday's ruling addressed issues the state court did not consider, such as a shopping center's ban on picket signs and on demonstrating at certain times of the year. A union lawyer in the case said the decision should send a message to mall management.
"Hopefully, now the malls will understand that they do have to accommodate criticism of the tenants (stores) and themselves," said Sandra Benson, attorney for the United Brotherhood of Carpenters.