Why should you never cross a picket line?

I’ve always known you should never EVER cross a picket line.

But I don’t know why.

Why should you never cross a picket line? And are there any circumstances in which it would be acceptable to do so?

Thanks for any help.


The theory behind this rule of thumb is that people only picket when they are being treated unfairly. If you still patronize the business, then you are supporting it and demonstrating to management that the business can still do business when it’s missing all those workers, which weakens the workers’ claim.

If, however, the workers are not being treated unfairly, the rule of thumb sort of breaks down.

Supposedly consumers are supposed to support the union worker’s efforts to get a better employment contract, even if that means paying higher prices for whatever they buy from the company. (Let me not hide my disdain for unions here.)

As far as crossing a line to get employment, same thing. Only add to that the physical danger of crossing a picket line. I live in West Virginia, people get shot for crossing here. Yes, shot. Or their tires are slashed, or whatever other kind of trouble the unions can cause you. When you live in a small town, union folks can make your life miserable if you piss them off.

I was raised to understand that my default loyalties were always with the workers rather than their bosses. Ergo, you don’t cross the picket line. Even a bad strike was worth supporting, because it reinforced the workers’ position.

Times have changed a bit round here. Unions are toothless now. Even though my politics have softened, it’s quite sad.

If you support the cause the union is striking for, then honor the picket line. If you don’t, then cross it. It is an individual choice, and the conditions change every day.

I’ll support pickets/strikes that are for valid reasons such as “We’re not going back to work until they take care of those bare wires hanging down from the ceiling” but the ones that are more common around here are inane reasons like “We’re going on strike because they raised our dental insurance co-pay to fifteen bucks” or “The store didn’t hire a union sign painter, so we’re mad at them”

I have zero sympathy for the pickets for “This company has to do everything 100% union” mentality or the minor bump in insurance costs sort of issues.

Rather than picket all the workers (in above example) would need do is make a call to the nearest OSHA office. :eek:

Without getting into a Great Debate here, I’ll just say there a thing called “informational picketing” where employees are not actually on strike, but are demonstrating to call attention to their issues.

In many cases, those picketers aren’t specifically asking customers to boycott, and don’t consider anyone to be “crossing.”

I agree with this. Keep informed, and it should be easy for you to make the decision. There have been two major grocery strikes in the area since I’ve lived here (10 years or so) and one I thought was valid (forcing truck drivers to work more hours without extra pay or a break - not cool, IMHO, and downright dangerous) and one I thought was semi sketchy to begin with, and was angered by the tactics used by the unions (the cost of health coverage was going up from $5 to $10 or $15 a co-pay and I thought, number one, that they were lucky to have ANY health coverage, because I know I don’t through my job, and there was a secondary issue where they bussed employees in from other cities to picket in stores of the chain that were not on strike* and not part of the same union - SHADY!)

So, it’s far from a black & white issue, much like voting in a election. Learn as much as you can and make an informed decision.

*The hilarious thing about this was, they bussed employees from Southern California to the Bay Area and as I was leaving the store (I work for a card company and have to be in the stores anyway to work) I would hear the SoCal people saying “Damn, it’s COLD here!” Well, GO HOME then! Jeez! That made me want to cross the line every day!

Do you like your kneecaps? :eek:

      • Another thing to consider is that if you are in a union yourself, the union rules prohibit you from crossing any other picket lines. Usually what the rules say is that your own union can impose fines on you (by way of paycheck deductions) if they find out you have done this, though it is rarely done.
  • They can do this, the unions’ own only requirement is that the picketers be union members… of some union. And what’s more, the union might have even paid the picketers their regular hourly rates, even paid them their regular overtime wages if the hours they had worked qualified that. The days of grocery stores in the US doing this seem to be pretty much gone (at least in my area), but it has happened in the past.

I crossed a picket line once after asking why they were picketing. The person I asked didn’t have an answer for me; he had been told by his union to show up and picket the store but not why, so I said, “Have a nice day, then,” and walked on through.

I went to the bank the other day and the POLICE were picketing it. I have no idea why, but there were loads of them there, and they’d set up barriers and they were all standing round with guns, and everything. They kept shouting at me. When I finally got into the bank, after managing to shake off about fourteen of them who kept trying to grab me, I found myself face to face with another guy with a shotgun and a big pile of dynamite, and he wouldn’t let me OUT!

They take picketing REALLY seriously round here. I never did get to deposit my £14.27.

Ha! Some jerks are trying to organize a union at work – we’re salaried professionals! (yeah, I can admit it was us now; it’s not a dirty secret anymore). Don’t ask me if I won’t cross our own bloody picket line if “we” go on strike after the NLRB vote.

Some picketers are jerks, but I’ve met some who aren’t. My company was building a bank in a strip center, and the pickets were organized against the anchor store, which was K-Mart.

My guys arrived, and were told that they could work, but asked that if the delivery truck crossed the picket line, it should not be driven by an hourly worker. I couldn’t figure that one out, but drove to the site, spoke to the picketers, and drove the truck onto the site.

Some suits have CDLs. :wink:

I think the factual question has been answered, so I’ll close this thread. Those wishing to debate whether you should or should not cross a picket line are directed to the Great Debates forum.

moderator GQ