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Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Two Iowa judges have come to two vastly differing conclusions about the activities of striking union workers at Deere factories.
A Polk County judge Tuesday denied Deere & Co.’s petition to limit picketing activities outside the company’s Des Moines-area facilities in Ankeny.
Meanwhile, a temporary injunction remains in place for picketing workers in Scott County.
Deere claimed in court filings that Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America engaged in “illegal and unlawful” conduct that included trespassing on Deere property “and the use of mass picketing, coercion, and intimidation to disrupt Deere’s enjoyment of its property and lawful business operations.”
The UAW is in ongoing labor contract negotiations with Deere & Co., and workers have been on strike for two weeks.
The company pointed to affidavits from two contractors and video from Deere’s Ankeny facilities, claiming picketing UAW members have attempted to block access to delivery vehicles and discourage third-party contractors from conducting “critical work that is not part of the work performed by the Union and its members.” As a result, Deere claims the union and its members have and continue to cause “irreparable loss and injury to Deere.”
Polk County District Court Judge Paul Scott, however, found the video evidence submitted by Deere in support of its request failed to show any illegal conduct on the part of the UAW or its members.
“The video evidence … shows vehicles have been slowed down by picketers in crosswalks; it fails to prove illegal conduct has occurred,” Scott wrote in his order denying Deere’s request.
The company had asked the court to limit the number of picketers at entrances to Deere’s Des Moines Works factory to four (as it was able to do in Scott County), and prohibit picketers at its warehouse in Ankeny. Deere claims that no union or bargaining unit work is performed at the Ankeny warehouse.
The UAW, as well, has placed limitations on the number of people protesting at the picket sites (10 people at the main gate and five at other sites); posted rules for and held presentations on picketing for members before going to picket sites; and ensured that each site has a captain who is responsible for ensuring the picketing is done peacefully in accordance with federal, state and local laws, according to testimony from the chairman of UAW Local No. 450.
“The Union asserts that it has made and it continues to make good-faith efforts to address issues and concerns raised by Deere,” Scott wrote in his order. “If a picketer steps outside the bounds of protected activity, that picketer is removed.”
Scott ruled Deere failed to show it will suffer substantial injury or damages unless an injunction is granted.
“There has been evidence of isolated instances of violations of the law,” with the denial of access to Deere facilities to two contractors by picketers. “However, the incidents are the exception to what has otherwise been a non-violent and law-abiding demonstration by the Union.”
Deere, in a statement Tuesday, said it sought the temporary injunction “to maintain a safe environment for our contractors and employees, including those exercising their right to strike.”
“Deere will continue working to ensure safe entry and exit to our facilities,” according to the statement.
Attorneys for the union, representing Davenport-based UAW Local 281, have asked a Scott County District Court judge to vacate an order granting Deere’s request for a temporary injunction limiting UAW members’ picketing activities outside a Davenport plant.
Attorneys Mark Hedberg and Nathaniel Boulton argue that Judge Marlita Greve considered only Deere’s side of the story when issuing the injunction last week, even using Deere’s language, verbatim, in her ruling.
The UAW was not given an opportunity to respond to the claims nor supply its own evidence, the attorneys wrote.
Hedberg and Boulton, in a prepared statement, said the Polk County District Court ruling reaffirms “the great lengths the union has gone to engage in not only lawful, but legally-protected picketing activities.
“It is unfortunate that Deere has tried to use state court intervention to disrupt and control the union’s right to engage in picketing, but we are encouraged that the court saw through that effort and ultimately protected the union’s rights,” Hedberg said in a statement.
How the ruling will impact the UAW’s attempts to vacate restrictions in Scott County remains unclear.
“To me, it’s obviously telling when both sides were able to present evidence, a very different result came out of the court,” Boulton said.
A hearing on the union’s motion filed Monday to vacate the order had yet to be scheduled as of Tuesday afternoon. Boulton said the court has 10 days to consider the motion to vacate.
The Scott County order limits gate-picket presence to four people and required the removal of fire barrels and chairs from picket-line areas.
Boulton and Hedberg filed a motion Tuesday requesting Greve recuse herself from further involvement in the matter.
The pair, in their motion, claim Greve could not be impartial “in evaluating the substantial legal defects and consequences” related to her own judicial actions granting the temporary restraining order.
A UAW official declined to comment on the Polk County District Court decision, citing pending litigation, and referred all inquiries to attorneys.
Quad-City Times reporters Barb Ickes and Cara Smith contributed to this story.