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Picketing is a form of protest in which people (called picketers) congregate outside a place of work or location where an event is taking place. Often, this is done in an attempt to dissuade others from going in ("crossing the picket line"), but it can also be done to draw public attention to a cause. Picketers normally endeavor to be non-violent. It can have a number of aims, but is generally to put pressure on the party targeted to meet particular demands. This pressure is achieved by harming the business through loss of customers and negative publicity, or by discouraging or preventing workers from entering the site and thereby preventing the business from operating normally.
Picketing is a common tactic used by trade unions during strikes, who will try to prevent dissident members of the union, members of other unions and ununionised workers from working. Those who cross the picket line and work despite the strike are known pejoratively as scabs.
Informational picketing is the legal name given to the type of picketing described above. Informational picketing, as described by Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of Law, entails picketing by a group, typically a labor or trade union, which inform the public about a matter of concern important to the union. This is a popular picketing technique for nurses to use outside of healthcare facilities. For example, on April 5, 2006 the nurses of the University of Massachusetts Memorial Medical Center participated in two separate informational picketing events to protect the quality of their nursing program.. Informational picketing was used to gain public support and promote further bargaining with management.
A mass picket is an attempt to bring as many people as possible to a picket line, in order to demonstrate support for the cause. It is primarily used when only one workplace is being picketed, or for a symbolically or practically important workplace. Due to the numbers involved, a mass picket may turn into a blockade.
Secondary picketing is where people picket locations that are not directly connected to the issue of protest. This would include component suppliers the picketed business relies on, retail stores that sell products by the company being picketed against, and the private homes of the company's management. Secondary pickets do not have the same civil law protection as primary pickets.
Another tactic is to organize highly mobile pickets who can turn up at any of a company's locations on short notice. These flying pickets are particularly effective against multifacility businesses which could otherwise pursue legal prior restraint and shift operations among facilities if the location of the picket were known with certainty ahead of time.
Picketing is also used by pressure groups across the political spectrum. Picketing has also been employed for religious purposes such as the Westboro Baptist Church who picket a variety of stores or events that they consider to be sinful.
Disruptive picketing is where pickets use force, or the threat of force, or physical obstruction, to injure or intimidate or otherwise interfere with either staff, service users, or customers.
Picketing, as long as it does not cause obstruction to a highway or intimidation, is legal in many countries and in line with freedom of assembly laws, though many countries do have restrictions on the use of picketing.
Legally defined, recognitional picketing is a method of picketing that applies economic pressure to a employer with the specific goal to force the employer to recognize the issues facing employees and address them through bargaining with a union. This type of picketing, under Section 8(b) (7) (A) of the Labor Act, is typically illegal if representation is not relevant or is unquestionable.
In the UK mass picketing was made illegal under the Trade Disputes and Trade Unions Act 1927 after the 1926 General Strike. The Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 gives protection under civil law for pickets who are acting in connection with an industrial dispute at or near their workplace who are using their picketing to peacefully obtain or communicate information or peacefully persuading any person to work or abstain from working. However, many employers have recently taken to gaining injunctions to limit the effect of picketing outside their work place. The granting of injunctions tends to be based on the accusation of intimidation or in general on non-peaceful behaviour and the claim that numbers of the picketers are not from the affected work place. Historically, picketing was banned by a Liberal government in the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1871 but then decriminalised by a Conservative government with the Conspiracy and Protection of Property Act 1875.
In the US any strike activity was hard to organize in the early 1900s, however picketing became more common after the Norris-LaGuardia Act of 1932, which limited the ability of employers to gain injunctions to stop strikes, and further legislation which supported the right to organize for the unions. Mass picketing and secondary picketing was however outlawed by The Taft-Hartley Labor Act (1947). Some kinds of pickets are constitutionally protected.
Viewing laws against stalking as potentially inconsistent with labour rights of picketing, the first anti-stalking law of the industrialised world, made by California's lawmakers, inserted provisions that disapply the law from "normal labor picketing", that has survived subsequent amendments. (Penal Code s. 646.1)
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