Legal Dictionary


Legal Definition of picketing



  1. Present participle of picket. (Protesting by a labour union or other group.)

Definition of picketing

Further reading

Picketing is a form of protest in which people (called picketers) congregate outside a place of work or location where an event is taking place. Often, this is done in an attempt to dissuade others from going in ("crossing the picket line"), but it can also be done to draw public attention to a cause. Picketers normally endeavor to be non-violent. It can have a number of aims, but is generally to put pressure on the party targeted to meet particular demands. This pressure is achieved by harming the business through loss of customers and negative publicity, or by discouraging or preventing workers from entering the site and thereby preventing the business from operating normally.

Picketing is a common tactic used by trade unions during strikes, who will try to prevent dissident members of the union, members of other unions and non-unionised workers from working. Those who cross the picket line and work despite the strike are known pejoratively as scabs.

Types of picketing

Informational picketing is the legal name given to the type of picketing described above. Informational picketing, as described by Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of Law, entails picketing by a group, typically a labor or trade union, which inform the public about a matter of concern important to the union. This is a popular picketing technique for nurses to use outside of healthcare facilities. For example, on April 5, 2006 the nurses of the University of Massachusetts Memorial Medical Center participated in two separate informational picketing events to protect the quality of their nursing program. Informational picketing was used to gain public support and promote further bargaining with management.

A mass picket is an attempt to bring as many people as possible to a picket line, in order to demonstrate support for the cause. It is primarily used when only one workplace is being picketed, or for a symbolically or practically important workplace. Due to the numbers involved, a mass picket may turn into a blockade.

Secondary picketing is where people picket locations that are not directly connected to the issue of protest. This would include component suppliers the picketed business relies on, retail stores that sell products by the company being picketed against, and the private homes of the company's management. Secondary pickets do not have the same civil law protection as primary pickets. This tactic of picketing was outlawed in the United Kingdom by the Conservative Party government of Margaret Thatcher in the mid 1980s, but the Labour opposition led by Neil Kinnock was pushing for it to be legalised in the run-up to the 1987 general election. However, these plans had been dropped by the time Labour returned to power under Tony Blair in 1997.

Another tactic is to organize highly mobile pickets who can turn up at any of a company's locations on short notice. These flying pickets are particularly effective against multifacility businesses which could otherwise pursue legal prior restraint and shift operations among facilities if the location of the picket were known with certainty ahead of time.

Picketing is also used by pressure groups across the political spectrum. Picketing has also been employed for religious purposes such as the Westboro Baptist Church who picket a variety of stores or events that they consider to be sinful.

Disruptive picketing is where pickets use force, or the threat of force, or physical obstruction, to injure or intimidate or otherwise interfere with either staff, service users, or customers.


  1. Wiktionary. Published under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.


1.     scienter
2.     quorum
3.     AORO
4.     adjudication order
5.     lex patriae
6.     Miranda warning
7.     lex causae
8.     appellant
9.     lex situs
10.     lex loci celebrationis