PCUN drops lawsuit against city over solicitation ordinance
The farmworkers' union Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste and its sister organization the nonprofit Accion Politica PCUNista (APP) have dropped a suit filed against the City of Woodburn in U.S. District Court.
The labor organizations sued the city in March over an amendment to a city ordinance regulating door-to-door solicitation. APP accused Woodburn of violating the First and Fourteenth Amendments as well as Article I of the Oregon Constitution, which address freedom of speech as well as equality of privileges and immunities of citizens.
APP said in its lawsuit that the amendment was too vague, and didn't provide a clear guideline for establishing property owners' consent to knock on doors or leave educational fliers and pamphlets.
The city amended its solicitation ordinance a second time in April, changing the language of the amendment for clarity and narrowing the scope of limitations on soliciting.
PCUN's Executive Director Reyna Lopez said the changes were a win for the union.
"We definitely applaud the changes. It's a win for organizing and allows us to continue the dialogue with our neighbors in the community," Lopez said.
Lopez said that while PCUN organizers appreciate the city's concern, they had been surprised that the city didn't contact them about the ordinance before amending it in 2017.
"We have a good relationship with the city, and there is no other place where we have as good of a relationship with the police department (as Woodburn,)" Lopez said.
Lopez said the union will continue door-to-door canvassing and organizing work as usual and that volunteers and staff are trained to know the law and always interact respectfully with residents.
"The union can still leave materials and knock on doors, and once were are notified (by the property owner,) we will leave," Lopez said. "We need the community to continue trusting us."
The ordinance prohibited solicitation if properties had posted "no solicitation" or "no trespassing" signs, and included penalties of up to $100 for a first violation and up to $250 for a second violation.
The amendment was intended to correct an older solicitation ordinance from 1969 which required solicitors to obtain a license from the city to go door to door, which was also likely unconstitutional, according to the city.
Woodburn Communications Coordinator Jason Horton said that the city had been notified that PCUN has dropped its federal lawsuit, and the solicitation ordinance will remain in effect.
"The city believes that Woodburn residents' ability to control access to their property is an important public safety matter," Horton said.