How to support a picket line

December 19, 2018

Don’t let never having gone to a picket line to show your support worry you — here’s some advice compiled by Amy Muldoon, a longtime socialist and a Communications Workers of America member at Verizon in New York City.

This article is part of the International Socialist Organization’s (ISO) Socialist at Work Toolkit assembled by the ISO’s Labor Working Group. We hope this collection of articles — as well as the experiences of socialists that went into it and will come out of it — contributes toward reconnecting today’s revived socialist movement with the rich history of labor struggle in the U.S. Only in the U.S. is socialism seen as foreign to unions and shop-floor struggles. It’s high time that changed.

At SW, we’re publishing articles from the Toolkit along with contributions from our readers about their own experiences, collected in a series called Socialists at Work. Please consider contributing your own stories and the lessons you’ve drawn from them in an e-mail submission to SW — or just tell us what liked, or didn’t, about this series.

BUILDING A working-class movement that can take on the power of the bosses requires solidarity. Honoring picket lines is the ABC of the labor movement — stopping business as usual is the key power of strikes. When people cross the picket line — either to be scabs or to patronize a business — it tips the balance in the bosses’ favor.

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Here are some tips for when you go to support a picket line.

Before You Go

Make a sign in support of the strike; include your organization or union name.

Pick up any food or drinks that you can; make sure it is easy to share, like pizza or empanadas, etc.

Spread the word on social media and among your co-workers — size matters when you are facing off against the bosses.

When You’re There

Introduce yourself and where you are from.

Speak to a picket captain, they are usually most informed. But don’t miss out talking to other rank and filers.

Ask how you can help: handing out fliers, holding signs, chanting, etc. Some pickets are very loud and confrontational, and others are more passive. Either way, find a way to contribute to an active mood.

Socialists at work

An SW series dedicated to discussing how to organize in your workplace. The ISO’s Labor Working Group has contributed how-to guides, and readers are adding their own experiences.

Ask a lot of questions, even if you’ve read a lot about the strike. It’s important to hear firsthand how the strikers understand the issues.

Explain — briefly — why you are there, and if you have any experience striking or in solidarity organizing, share it! Often, people new to striking think it’s just their company or boss that’s petty, greedy, sexist, etc. Sharing stories helps to generalize and build bridges to a bigger understanding of the systemic problems of capitalism.

Make sure to get permission to quote people if you are writing an article for Socialist Worker.

Take lots of pictures and share all over social media. Be sure to find out any hashtags or pages the union is using or promoting, and share, share, share.

Other Things to Think About

Contact the union about fundraising. Bringing cash to a picket line isn’t always welcome. But food is! Taking a collection at a meeting can be used for coffee, water, pizza, etc.

Many locals will not have experience striking or asking for solidarity. Speak to the union about setting up a fundraising page for strikers, a Facebook solidarity group, using the examples of other recent strikes. Inviting strikers to a meeting to share their issues or even plan a solidarity panel with other workers are great ways to build relationships and publicize the strike.

Further Reading

From the archives