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Picketing is a method of protesting where individuals stand outside of a workplace or organization to publicize an issue, often a labor dispute, and persuade employees or customers to withhold their work or business. Picketing allows the picketers to notify the public of the existence of a strike, to disseminate information concerning the controversy, and to communicate the facts dealing with their side of the dispute. Usually, the picketers bear signs with messages voicing their grievances. 

Picketing is constitutionally protected as an exercise of freedom of speech. However, picketing is subject to reasonable regulation. For example, where picketing takes place may be restricted as an unfair labor practice, or a company may be able to get an injunction to prevent irreparable injury caused by picketing.

There are two primary types of picketing, which are defined by where the picketing takes place.

  1. Primary picketing takes place at the workplace of the employer with whom the picketers have a dispute. Primary picketing is designed to exert pressure on the employer.

  2. Secondary picketing takes place at the workplace of an employer other than the primary employer. Generally, this is an employer with whom the primary employer does business. Secondary picketing is designed to put pressure on this neutral employer. In Labor Board v. Fruit Packers, the Supreme Court stated that Congress may prohibit secondary picketing calculated “to persuade the customers of the secondary employer to cease trading with him in order to force him to cease dealing with, or to put pressure upon, the primary employer.”

[Last updated in July of 2020 by the Wex Definitions Team]