Are secondary consumer boycotts illegal?

Can a consumer (as opposed to a union) legally “organize” a secondary boycott?

What’s a “secondary boycott”?

So a secondary boycott by a consumer might be “organizing” a boycott against Walmart for selling clothes manufactured by “Happy Land Sweatshop Clothing Manufacturing Company.”

How could there be a law against consumers not shopping at a particular store? There are regulations about unions in engaging in such activity, but if I, Joe Shopper, doesn’t want to go to Store X because Union Y is picketing it and I tell my friends not to go there either, I don’t see the problem.

In my neighborhood, two of the local supermarkets are being struck by their clerks. So I am shopping elsewhere. I can’t see the markets getting an injunction on me to keep me from going to another store because of it.

I suppose you could consider the economic boycotts of pre-Mandela South Africa or present day Cuba to be examples of this on a larger scale.

IANAL, but I would think that the First Amendment would permit consumers to organize picketing of a secondary business as long as they were peacably assembled.

Well I’m thinking of something a bit more organized than “tell my friends not to go there.” I’m thinking more along the lines of grassroots programs that end up raising funds to support their cause, etc…

Is this by any chance in reference to the planned boycott of Green Linnet Records being organized by their artists who reportedly have not been paid in 4 years?

Secondary boycotts can be illegal, but it depends, it depends:


But also see the Consumer Appeals and Boycotts page, which provides many complications.

And Google on “secondary boycott” legality for many other citations.

How could someone force you to shop somewhere, anyways?

It sounds like it would be pretty hard to enforce.

It’s not a question of forcing. Obviously you can shop wherever you like. But let’s imagine you started an organization whose purpose was to drive Wal-Mart out of business. You collected money, members, etc., had a big advertising campaign whose theme was, “Don’t shop at Wal-Mart; they are killing the local merchants”. This would be a secondary and the question (to which I do not know the answer, BTW) is, would this be illegal. I believe the Montgomery bus boycott was ruled illegal, but not much came of that. There were boycotts against lettuce when Cesar Chavez was trying to organize the pickers. There were boycotts against South African products generally. I guess no one tried to get them ruled illegal, AFAIK.

Nope, haven’t heard of that. Just one of those things I’ve always wondered.

Note that the one case cited is “Pye v. Teamsters Local 122”. Thus, there are other considerations than private citizens to think about in that particular instance.

Yes, my question is specifically in regard to private citizens. The legislation that made secondary boycotts illegal was targeted specifically at organized labor, not consumers (Taft-Hartley Act).

So, if it’s a group of consumers with no ties to organized labor, how could it possibly be illegal?

I started a thread on this a while back involving radio host Michael Savage apparently asserting it WAS illegal. Check out the responses; there are some enlightening ones there.

well, it seems to me that if Wal-Mart were driving small businesses out of business, then they couldn’t do much about you telling other people not to shop there because of it. If they weren’t, they could sue you for libel. McDonalds UK tried this, if I recall correctly, and while they won most of their case, it was a PR nightmare, and the judge ruled that the part about animal cruelty was not libellous, because the rearing conditions were beyond the pale. McDonalds US has since, relatedly or not, decided to establish standards for their suppliers; in fact the chain restaurant association established a common standard for all the fast food joints so as to not end up with a morass of competing standards.

Googling on mclibel gives more web pages than I care to name, plus a book on amazon. The above is my impression of the case based on hearing about it from others; I haven’t read the book or the web sites returned by google. Professional driver on closed road, IANAL, YMMV, objects in rearview are closer than they appear, etc.

[interrogator]We have ways of making you shop.[/interrogator]