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Guide to Picketing

Picket Lines:  Why Picket?

 A picket line has two purposes: 

  •         To convey the information to the public that a strike is in progress.
  •         To bring pressure upon the employer so as to convince him/her to negotiate a   reasonable settlement.

How to Picket

  • Report to your picket captain prior to the start and end of your shift.
  • If you are sick or have some other reason for not being able to do your shift phone your picket captain as soon as possible.
  • To avoid thinning the line, take your breaks at the assigned time
  • Dress warmly. Bring snacks and a lunch.
  • Wear your picket sign or vest while on duty.
  • Keep moving! Patrol the assigned area and refrain from loitering.
  • Inform anyone attempting to cross the picket line of the strike and politely ask them to respect the picket line. Do not argue or debate.  Refer problems to the picket captain.
  • If anyone insists on crossing, try to get their name, address, firm represented and the license number of the vehicle. If you have a camera, take a picture. Give the information to your picket captain.
  • Do not obstruct the public using the sidewalks or roadways in front of the picket line.
  • Conversation with the public should be as courteous as possible.  Focus on take-always; too many issues discussed at one time limits effectiveness.
  • Bring your family to the picket line from time to time. It is important for them to understand what you are doing and what you are going through.
  • Keep the picket line clean. If possible, have garbage pale near the line and have someone empty it into a garbage bag at the end of each shift.
  • If approached by the media do not speak to them, refer them to the picket captain.

Dealing With Replacement Workers

A scab is someone who makes the employer’s life easier during a legal strike.  It can take obvious forms, like openly crossing a picket line, or more subtle forms like returning emails and phone calls from home or other locations.  If you know that someone is scabbing, refer the matter to your Local Union Leadership.

Frequently Asked Questions About Picketing

What should I bring to the picket line? 

  •         Comfortable clothes especially comfortable walking shoes.
  •         Snacks and food for lunch.
  •         A cell phone to keep in contact with your picket captain and your family.
  •         A camera (if you have one) and a small pad to record incidents.
  •         A sense of humour to help deal with the ups and downs of walking the line.

Will I be punished for my role during the strike?

  •         Management cannot discipline members for supporting their union.

How many picketers do we need on each picket line?

  •         It depends on what is happening at the work location. The strike committee will work out a picketing strategy.

Will we have any effect on the bargaining process with this strike?

  •         A strong presence on the picket line sends a message to the Employer that the local has strong support from its membership. As the saying goes, “the longer the line, the shorter the strike.”

How long can I hold up traffic?

  •         Vehicles can be delayed at a picket line so that picketers can inform the occupants of the issues involved in the job action.

Can I stop people from walking into the workplace?

  •         You can delay people and talk to them but you can’t legally stop people from entering the workplace. If anyone tries to cross the picket line, inform the people of the issues; ask them to respect the picket line.

What should be done when the police come?

  •         Only the picket captain should talk to the police. Be polite and answer any questions.
  •         Record all visits by police to the Picket Coordinator.

Do I have to obey security guards?

  •         The picket line belongs to the union. Picketers take their direction from the picket captain.  Security guards have no authority on the union’s picket line.

Is there a limit to the noise that we can make?

  •         Picket lines should be noisy. Although noise by-laws apply to picket lines, there should be no problem before 11 pm and then only if someone in the neighbourhood complains.

Who do I contact in the event of problems on the picket line?

  •         Talk to your picket captain. There will be a cell phone on each picket line for emergencies. If you have one, bring your cell phone and camera when you picket.

Can we take pictures of events on the picket line?

·        Yes, take pictures and videos of security, managers and scab activity. Don’t forget that you can also take pictures of solidarity, great picket signs, etc. Pass them on to the Strike Committee.

What do we do about scabs?

  •         Scabs need to be identified, preferably by photograph. Pass on the information to the picket captain.

 What if I’m sick, have a doctor’s appointment etc? 

  •         Inform your picket captain if you can’t do your shift. If the union is not informed you have not be eligible to collect strike pay for the time you are absent.
  •         If you have a doctors appointment you may be asked to picket at some other time or do some other job to make up the time.

 I don’t feel comfortable picketing or I have a disability that makes it hard for me to picket. What can I do? 

  • Contact your picket captain about alternative work.
  • Doing nothing is not an option if you want to get strike pay and not alienate your coworkers.


The Picket Captain

 The Picket captain is:

  •       The representative of the union on the picket line.
  •       The liaison with the police and security guards on the picket line.
  •       Responsible for maintaining the morale of everyone picketing on their shift.

Duties of the Picket Captain

  • Arrive at the line 15 minutes before the start of their shift to receive information from the previous picket captain.  Stay on the line until the next picket captain arrives.
  • Greet all picketers and solidarity pickets as they arrive. Pass on new information from the Executive or Strike Committee.
  • Take attendance by completing the daily picket line roster – ensuring all members sign in and out and remain on duty for the duration of their shift.
  • Provide leadership on the picket line and bolster the morale of picketers
  • Assign tasks to picketers – leading chants, leafleting and talking to people in cars, pedestrians, taking pictures, keeping the area clean, etc. 
  • Identify key leaders on the line, and especially those who might be interested in getting more involved in other actions to support the strike or lockout.
  • Confirm identity of any scab crossing the picket line.
  • Communicate with police and security guards if necessary.
  • Ensure the safety of picketers.
  • Make sure that someone cleans up the area around the picket line at the end of each shift.
  • Pass on all forms to the next picket captain.

 Picket Captain’s Survival Kit

 Picket captains need to bring the following every time they are at the picket line:

  •  Picket Captain Vest / Button
  • Copies of any pamphlets being given out to anyone crossing the picket line.
  • Copies of the latest strike bulletin for the picketers.
  • A copy of any picketing protocols and forms.
  • Traffic Cones (to slow traffic crossing the picket line and limit the chances of picketers being hit by scabs crossing the picket line)
  • A mobile phone with contact numbers for everyone on your “shift” plus strike related numbers (strike headquarters, picket coordinator, strike committee members, police, etc.)
  • A camera, pen, clip board and paper (to record incidents)
  • First aid kit, Flashlight, Matches, Garbage Bags
  • Strike and bargaining support buttons, etc.


Dealing with the Media

If the press arrives on the line, introduce yourself as the picket captain. Be sure that your site is safe, orderly and clean. Beef up the chants and singing if the press is filming.

Show them how solid the line is and how supportive the picketers are for the bargaining and strike committees.

Refer all requests for interviews to the Strike Headquarters.

The press may also want some photo ops, some human-interest stories, etc.  Get to know your picketers, listen to their stories and identify what might be a positive way to reinforce support for the strike. For example, the single mom who is coping with the strike through the generosity of friends and supporters on the line might be interested in getting her story out there. Call the strike headquarters with the story so that someone can try and arrange an interview.

Pass on positive stories about your picket lines to the Strike Headquarters to include in the newsletter or web site.  These stories will give everyone a morale boost and help win support for the strike.

If you encounter any problem, please call the Picket Coordinator or the Strike Headquarters.


Dealing with the Police

It is very important to remember that the picket line belongs to the union.

Police should operate on the premise that a labour dispute is a civil contractual dispute between management and labour and, providing no breach of the peace occurs and criminal misconduct is absent from the picket area, the police have no authority in the dispute.

Police officers should therefore attempt to maintain a neutral presence. This includes limiting their involvement to enforcing the law and safeguarding the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Human Rights Code. Police will sometimes need to be reminded of their role to remain neutral. 

There is sometimes a discrepancy between their response times when the employer or the union calls the police. Response time needs to be documented.


Important Phone Numbers


Picket Captain: _________________________  Mobile Number:_______________________


 Strike Headquarters: Number:_______________________


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