A federal judge in New York ruled Thursday that the city of New York could not impose fines on the owners of a restaurant that was caught selling union merchandise.
The ruling by U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, a member of the U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in China, is a setback for New York City, which is suing the restaurant for allegedly violating the workers rights of the restaurant’s union members.
Jackson found that the restaurant, the American Wings, violated the terms of a non-compete agreement between the owners and their union members that prohibited them from selling union-supplied union-branded merchandise at the restaurant.
Jackson found that some union-related items had been sold at the New York-based restaurant without permission from the union members who purchased them.
She found that American Wings had violated the non-complying clause because of the “unlawful” sale of union-provided union-approved apparel at the establishment.
The restaurant, according to the ruling, was violating the noncomplyability clause by selling union clothing without permission of the union’s members.
“While the defendants are not named in the complaint, it is clear that the defendants engaged in conduct that is protected under the First Amendment,” Jackson wrote.
“That conduct includes selling union apparel to nonunion members of the United Service Workers Union.
The plaintiffs are protected under both the First and Fourteenth Amendments.
The Defendants have not shown that any of their conduct in violation of the noncompete clause was unlawful.”
She found the defendants did not prove that they had been paying union dues, or that they knew that nonunion membership was illegal.
The restaurant’s owners, Jeffrey Gershon and his wife, Jennifer, have denied that the clothing was sold illegally.
They argue that the garment was sold at bargain prices and that the merchandise had no affiliation with the workers’ union.
They argue that they were just following the terms and conditions of the agreement that allowed the sale of the merchandise, but that Jackson’s decision does not go far enough to determine that.
“The plaintiffs have presented no evidence to establish that they are aware that their conduct was unlawful,” the owners wrote in a statement to the Associated Press.
“Instead, the plaintiffs have alleged that they merely followed the terms agreed upon by the union and are now liable for violating the terms.”