The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.

Indianapolis Noise Ordinance Silences Protest, Groups Charge

by Brendan Coyne

Nov. 30, 2005 – The Indiana Civil Liberties Union took up the cause of the local Justice for Janitors campaign Monday, filing a lawsuit asking that a federal court declare a City of Indianapolis noise ordinance unconstitutional because it restricts workers’ right to protest. According to charges by the ACLU, city officials have used the ordinance to hinder unionized janitors’ attempts to challenge their labor conditions.

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Members of Local 3 of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) have been holding informational pickets in downtown Indianapolis since a small group of janitors went out on strike against Group Service France (GSF) on June 15, according to a call for action posted to the Indy for Democracy website. Group Service France is the company that provides cleaning services to the NCAA in Indianapolis.

According to organized labor groups, the company has so far fired one worker for leading unionization efforts and suspended and threatened several others. The striking workers offered to come back to work the day after the job action but have so far been denied, except in a few instances where employees were offered jobs far away, leading other janitors throughout the city to join in the informational pickets, according to UnionVoice.org, an informational website maintained by a coalition of organized labor groups.

The daily job actions in downtown Indianapolis have incorporated drums, whistles and other noise-making instruments, leading to citations from city police, the Associated Press reported.

The ACLU lawsuit challenges an Indianapolis ordinance that bars "loud, unnecessary or unusual noise." The ordinance extends to surrounding Marion County as well.

According to the ACLU, "the Indianapolis Noise Ordinance is so overbroad and vague that it prohibits a great deal of speech that is protected by the First Amendment."

In a statement put out by Indiana ACLU, attorney Jacquelyn Bowie-Suess said, "The city’s use of the ordinance against the ‘Justice for Janitors’ campaign prevents the janitors from effectively delivering their message."

United States District Court Judge John Tinder will hear the case, though dates have not been set.

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The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.


Brendan Coyne is a contributing journalist.

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