Federal judge lifts demonstration limits on Tennessee strikers

Tuesday, August 25, 1998

A federal judge on Monday dismissed a state court order that regulated workers' picketing of a zinc-mining company in Carthage, Tenn.

Members of the United Steel Workers of America Local 8413 successfully challenged a Smith County Chancery Court judge's temporary restraining order which limited union pickets to demonstrating before only one of the company's mining entrances and which instructed the workers not to “annoy” their employer.

In his ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Thomas A. Wiseman Jr. said that the injunction “unduly restricted picketing, an expression of their First Amendment problems, First Amendment rights in a number of respects. … That is overly broad.”

“We're pleased,” said George Barrett, the lead attorney representing the union in Savage Zinc v. United Steel Workers of America Local 8413 said, “It's a vindication of the First Amendment. We were hoping for this, and the judge agreed that the injunction limits our constitutional First Amendment rights.”

The Aug. 7 restraining order had prohibited demonstrators from “interfering with, hindering, threatening, intimidating, harassing or annoying in any manner [Savage Zinc's] officers, agents, employees or other persons having business with” the company.

The workers were barred from “blocking or obstructing in any manner whatsoever any of the driveways, gateways, public streets or other entrances leading to” the company.

Said Barrett: “They enjoined us from any picketing, [from] talking to people to persuade them not to go to work. That's an abridgment of our constitutional rights.”

The company reportedly requested the order to prevent vandalism, abusive and obscene language and the spreading of nails and spikes across company entrances.

Wiseman urged Barrett and other union members in the courtroom to take precautions in order to ensure that nails are not thrown in any manner. The union members agreed to conduct non-violent pickets.

Marcus Crider, an attorney representing Savage Zinc, had no comment.