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Trade union initiated flash mob actions may be lawful

The Federal Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht, BVerfG) decided on March 26, 2014 (docket number: 1 BvR 3185/09) that so-called flash mob actions accompanying a strike which are initiated by a trade union do not violate constitutional rights of employers.

A flash mob is a group of people who assemble suddenly in a public place, perform an unusual and seemingly pointless act for a brief time and then quickly disperse. The case, which was decided by the BVerfG dealt with a supermarket chain which was affected by a flash mob action as part of a strike. The trade union had organized the flash mob by asking third parties to buy on a specified day only penny items or to fill their shopping baskets and then leave them in the aisles without actually buying anything. The supermarket chain was of the opinion that such flash mob actions were not covered by the constitutional rights granted to the trade union especially as people participated who are not members of the trade union, employees or personally affected by the strike outcome. The Federal Labour Court decided September 9, 2009 (docket number: 1 AZR 972/08) that flash mob actions are generally lawful. It argued that the affected company can limit the damage by temporarily closing down the business or to execute their property rights by asking participants to leave. The supermarket chain appealed to the BVerfG. However, the BVerfG upheld the reasoning of the Federal Labour Court thereby strengthening trade union rights in connection with strike action.