Did the Union Cross the (Picket) Line?
February 27, 2017
When I arrived home last night, there were picketers in my front yard carrying signs saying “Shame on Johnny! He doesn’t pay union wages!” This morning, the picketers have set up shop on the sidewalk outside our construction yard. Now, they have signs telling my employees and customers that I am “Cheating the American Worker.” Can I make them stop picketing?
Seeing men and women carrying placards in your front yard or outside of your business is never a comfortable feeling. Unions use picketing to organize workers; in other words, to convince workers that they should join a union or to pressure employers to pay higher wages. However, a union’s right to picket is not without limits.
Generally, unions and workers are permitted to picket outside an employer’s primary place of business to convince employees that they should join the union. This type of activity is often called “recognitional” or “organizational” picketing. When employees already have a union, employees and unions may use picketing to pressure an employer to increase wages and benefits or to improve working conditions. In these circumstances, the picketing activity is lawful IF the activity: (1) takes place at the employer’s place of business or job site; (2) does not physically prevent workers (or others) from entering the employer’s premises or job site where the employer is performing work; and (3) does not involve threats of violence, acts or force, or destruction of property.
But, not all picketing is allowed. For example, unions are not permitted to engage in organizational picketing in the twelve months following a union election or recognition of a union. Similarly, while unions are allowed to picket for the purpose of “informing the public” that an employer pays wages that are below “area standards,” they are not permitted to use “area standards” picketing as a ruse to organize workers. In addition, picketing outside the homes of business owners, supervisors, and customers is often prohibited.
If picketers are disrupting your business, you may be able to limit their activity. We encourage you to consult with an attorney to determine what measures can be taken to address the situation.