Depending on whom you believe, US WEST either has been "irreparably harmed" by "mobs" of striking workers whose members include those who have acted illegally or the union representing the phone company employees has conducted peaceful and legal picketing.
And any incidents that have occurred involving US WEST employees are "isolated incidents" that are not connected to the picketing or the strikers, union representatives say.Third District Judge Tyrone Medley heard these dual arguments Friday as the company pressed to have a temporary restraining order issued by another judge turned into a preliminary injunction that would restrict pickets to six per building entrance and station them 30 feet apart.
Medley, who had just finished handling a trial that went past midnight the night before, said he wanted to read all the documents submitted by US WEST and the Communication Workers of America Local 7704 before issuing a ruling.
He will announce his ruling at 2 p.m. on Monday.
US WEST presented seven witnesses at a hearing Wednesday who testified that strikers vandalized property, blocked cars from leaving, threw rocks and made death threats.
Friday was the union's turn to call its witnesses, and four people took the stand, although one did not testify.
CWA President Gail Metcalf, who testified the longest, said it's important to have a good-size group of picketers at sites during a strike to show solidarity among workers and to inform the corporation, the public and people who cross picket lines about the labor dispute.
Metcalf said the union also has a duty to see who crosses picket lines so they do not get paid for strike duty.
"The union does not condone any violence or vandalism," she said.
Metcalf also said the union does not support threatening phone calls, rock throwing, blocking vehicles or any illegal activity.
US WEST attorney Mark Theodore delivered a fiery denunciation of the union in closing arguments and asserted that "acts of unlawful intimidation and terror directed toward people who are working during the strike has left a general sense of dread and fear among these people."
Theodore said US WEST will suffer irreparable harm in many ways, particularly if it loses customers to competitors, unless a court injunction is granted. "A peaceful rally of some 200 protesters turned into a hostile and dangerous mob within a matter of minutes," he said, referring to an Aug. 20 CWA rally in which two vans were prevented from leaving a US WEST parking lot and there was pushing and shoving involving a US WEST security person and strikers.
"Clearly, in this case the CWA is unable or unwilling to control the protest activities of the picketers," he said.
But CWA attorney Arthur Sandack said he "strongly objected" to the term "mob" to describe legal picketing by striking workers, and he said there is no evidence to link several problems that have occurred with picketing.
Most of the claims involve "very minor situations," and there needs to a be substantive pattern of illegal activity before court action is needed, he said.
For example, if two or three vehicles were delayed leaving a parking lot for a couple of minutes, Sandack said he considered that "an inconvenience" due to traffic congestion, not illegal behavior by pickets.
In the case of a woman who is working during the strike who said she got a threatening phone call, Sandack said no one knows who the caller is and that the caller could be completely unconnected to the strike.
Steven Clark, an auto mechanic at US WEST's garage at 4400 S. Main, said he was hit in the head by a rock thrown through the back of his pickup truck. Sandack said neither he nor the union condones violence, but he called that an isolated incident.
"They (the company) want to associate the picketing with these other random acts," Sandack said.
Even a situation in which an out-of-town contractor observed a gun in the lap of a union member in a car near a hotel where the contractor was staying "was not as threatening as it was made to sound," Sandack said.
The contractor, Frank Adams, has lived many places and was brought in by the phone company to do cable work. He approached a car with union members in it at a motel where he was staying, and as he leaned his forearms on the open window while talking to the people inside, he saw a gun in the driver's lap.
Adams gave police the car's license number, and they arrested a man at the CWA Union Hall.
However, Sandack said Adams is a "vagabond" who initiated the contact, is physically imposing and "was displaying machismo." The gun was not picked up nor brandished, "and if there's anything we've learned in the state of Utah, it's OK to carry a gun around," Sandack said.
Because he was present during that incident, one union witness on Friday did not testify after being advised by Medley of his constitutional rights against self-incrimination.
In another strike-related action, US WEST will stop paying for strikers' health insurance on Sept. 1, but the union announced a plan to provide coverage.