Crossing a picket line

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Joined: 26-08-12
May 30 2016 09:13
Crossing a picket line

A few weeks ago I was traveling around the mid west US and needed to print out a bus ticket, so I headed to a nearby kinkos/fedex. As I was walking in though, I noticed a group of workers standing a fair amount away from the front door holding a banner stating something like "labor dispute, stop greed at fedex" or something like that. If I would have blinked, I may have missed that they were even there. I stood there briefly and watched people come in and out pretty freely without any interactions with the picketers. The picketers seemed to be bored and just kinda talked amongst themselves. I didn't want to miss my bus so I didn't have a whole lot of time to chat to the picketers, but I didn't want to cross any sort of picket line either so I just went somewhere else to get it printed.

I guess what I'm asking is has anyone been in simular situation and what they've done.

Gulai Polye
Joined: 24-05-16
May 30 2016 09:38

I thought a picketline was only for scabbers and not for customers?

Auld-bod's picture
Joined: 9-07-11
May 30 2016 10:53

I'd say both, as it is a question of solidarity. For example, during a miner's strike pickets asked rail workers and truck drivers not to move coal.

Ed's picture
Joined: 1-10-03
May 30 2016 13:14

Yeah, I think it depends. Like, when tube staff go on strike, I don't think it's scabbing to take the tube (just stupid, as it'll take you fucking ages!).. But when the Ritzy cinema workers were on strike and asking customers not to go in, I considered those who did go in to be scabs as their actions had a directly negative impact on the striking workers..

jef costello's picture
jef costello
Joined: 9-02-06
May 30 2016 14:39

If you're having a negative effect on the strike then don't do it.
As a worker if where you're working is on strike then corssing is scabbing, no question.
If as a worker you interact then that's tricky. For example posties often refuse to deliver mail if there's a strike. I think as an example of solidarity it's important,but I'd not consider you a scab in general.
If you replace a striking working then you are the worst kind of scab.

IF as a customer/service user etc then it's up to you, but if it's a business then obviously there should be an economic effect to a strike so using it reduces that effect. In the case of a service then it's a bit different, but I'd still avoid it if possible.

That said I'm still hesitating over skipping a picket later in the week because it's on my day off and because I'm a few weeks away from being made permanent.

Chilli Sauce's picture
Chilli Sauce
Joined: 5-10-07
May 30 2016 15:09

Basically what Ed said, but when I've been in similar situations, I always ask. If the workers don't want to customers to cross, I don't cross.

In NYC, where the constructions trades are still strong, the trade unions often do these weird informational pickets. They have folks outside non-union construction sites handing out badly-worded leaflets. The picketers (who might be workers or union officials, I'm not sure) don't seem to have much a plan for interacting with the public and don't often have much to tell me when I ask them about the dispute. And maybe that's okay, it's a warning shot to the employer, but it's certainly not how I'd organize an informational picket.

All of which is a long way of saying, that might have been the same thing you saw with FedEx who, as far as I know, don't have a recognized union presence.

Joined: 26-08-12
May 30 2016 15:36

Thanks for the responses so far. This isn't the first time I've seen an informational picket (or whatever it was), but maybe the first time I've needed a service from a company that had picketers posted outside and felt obliged to hold solidarity by not crossing their picket line. I just had a hard time figuring out what was going on and how they were trying to be effective.

Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
Joined: 14-03-06
May 30 2016 15:54

I think like Ed says, it depends. The point of the taboo on crossing picket lines is to not do anything to undermine a strike. That always means not doing the work of strikers. Depending on the strike that may or may not mean customers not crossing, workers at other firms or non-striking roles not crossing etc. E.g. I don't think hospital cleaners were scabbing on the recent junior doctors strikes, still less patients. But there might be times when strikers are asking customers not to cross (e.g. a restaurant strike or something) where the economic effect of customers respecting pickets directly affects the strength of the action (I don't think customers would technically be scabbing either, but should respect such a picket).

Juan Conatz's picture
Juan Conatz
Joined: 29-04-08
May 30 2016 22:36

I agree with what has been said here, it depends on the picket and the purpose when it comes to being a consumer. In Minneapolis I helped run a series of pickets on a liquor store and we specifically asked customers to shop elsewhere and this was done to try to hit the store economically during the busiest time on a holiday weekend. But one of the pickets we didn't ask that of customers, but merely ran an 'informational picket' where the goal was to publicize the liquor store's firing of union organizers.

Joined: 13-10-05
May 31 2016 13:02

fwiw i recently had to switch cell phone companies, and i didn't give verizon a chance because CWA was picketing outside the store.

Gulai Polye
Joined: 24-05-16
Jun 1 2016 04:14

In Belgium the soldiers are scabbing