Types of Union Picketing (Part 2)

In Part 1 of “What is Picketing,” I covered Recognitional Picketing, Informational Picketing, and Area Standards Picketing, as well as how long picketing can occur under certain circumstances and how to check to make sure that the picketing occurring outside your company is legal. I also encouraged you to seek legal counsel at the first sign of picketing because of the complexity of whether the picketing is legal, whether it is covered by the National Labor Relations Act, and whether you can do anything to stop or imped the activity that is happening against you. In this, Part II, I will cover Mass Picketing, Common Situs Picketing and Signal Picketing.

Mass Picketing: Mass picketing is exactly what it sounds like – a very large concentration of people. The large number of picketers makes entering or leaving a place of employment difficult. Mass picketing is illegal because it obstructs the path into or out of a workplace. When ingress or egress is blocked, employers can seek temporary restraining orders against the picketers. State courts are usually receptive to limiting the number of people who can picket at any one time once a showing of obstruction, violence, or picket line misconduct is made.

Common Situs Picketing: If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know I don’t write legalese. Yet, I had to throw the Latin word situs in this post because, well, that’s what it’s called. Common situspicketing is when an entire construction site is picketed by a union who is striking a particular contractor or subcontractor that is working on only one section of the job site.

For example, the Plumbers and Pipefitters Union want to picket non-union Jones Plumbing Contractor while Jones does work on the construction site of Big Box Store, Inc. In order for the Plumbers and Pipefitters to legal picket Jones Plumbing, the picketing must 1) be done in a peaceful manner, 2) specifically identify Jones and the primary employer with which the union has a dispute, and 3) limit the picketing to times when Jones is on the Big Box Store’s property, 4) Jones must be engaging in its normal business, and 5) the picketing must be limited to places near where Jones is working on the jobsite, and 6) the picketing signs must clearly identify the primary employer. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule.

I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again – properly responding to picketing is tricky a little devil. And properly responding to picketing at a construction site is the trickiest little devil of them all.

Signal Picketing Signal picketing, according the NLRB, occurs when unions do not use the traditional form of picketing – carrying signs that identify the union and employer that the union is picketing. The most common form of signal picketing is a large inflatable rat. The rat is commonly known in traditional labor circles to represent that a union has a labor dispute with an employer. According to some employers, when the rat is present at a construction job site or outside a workplace, the rat signals other unions to walk off the job, not make deliveries, and not otherwise engage in business with the employer being picketed.

The rat is a spectacle to be seen and draws a lot of questions from passersby who do not understand what it means. I will explore the rate in a later post.

Matt Austin is a Columbus, Ohio labor lawyer who owns Austin Legal, LLC, a boutique law firm that limits its representation to employers dealing with labor, employment, and OSHA matters. Matt can be reached by email at
Matt.Austin@Austin-Legal.com or by phone at 614.285.5342.