What's the opposite of crossing the picket line?
June 7, 2009 9:07 PM   Subscribe

How best can I, as a passing pedestrian, indicate support for a picket line? Is my current method appropriate, or weird?

On my morning commute, I walk about six blocks from one transit station to another. I usually take the same route since I can hit the same green lights, etc. Two times recently, on my usual route, there has been a carpenters' union picket line in front of a building that has some active construction going on. The workers picketing have been a mix of white and minority, men and women, holding signs with "[company name] doesn't pay a living wage!" and similar. I am extremely sympathetic to union concerns and class and race issues, and would like to show my support to these folks -- it feels wrong to walk by and not say or do anything to indicate my support. I have never been in a union; I am a generic overeducated office-based tech worker.
So far my not-well-thought-out reaction has been approaching the line, saying to the people I was about to merge with "can I walk with you?" and then, on leaving the line when our paths diverge, saying "good luck." This seemed somewhat weird and awkward but I am not sure if this is just me, and if it's actually supportive.

So my question is, is it appropriate or useful or solidaritous (is there a word for "to show solidarity"?) for me to continue along my usual route and join the picket line for the half-block that their route is the same as mine? Is it weird? Is there anything I can say or do to indicate that's what I'm doing? Or, is there some other way I should show support? If I were driving, I would honk and wave, so what's the pedestrian equivalent?
posted by librarina to Human Relations (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Well, you could talk to them and tell them verbally that you support what they're doing. Are you talking about something to visibly show that you care? Then walking with them is probably appreciated. I think it's fine.
posted by number9dream at 9:14 PM on June 7, 2009 [2 favorites]

The custom is usually to show your support with the gift of food. Since it's the morning, maybe coffees or a box of donuts/pastries. This tends to be extremely well received. You wouldn't have to do it every day or anything.
posted by cushie at 9:26 PM on June 7, 2009 [9 favorites]

I've done the same thing FWIW.
posted by salvia at 9:29 PM on June 7, 2009

Have they got leaflets? If so, take one and read it as you walk (this happens to me a lot). If not, smile at them as you walk past. I don't think speaking is necessary. You're obviously not crossing the line to go into the business they're picketing, so it's not like you're NOT supporting their cause.
posted by elsietheeel at 9:30 PM on June 7, 2009

I don't see anything wrong with what you're doing. Especially if there's any sort of chant, where you could lend one more voice.

I would probably limit my own participation to, oh, saying hello and being open to a high-five.
posted by dhartung at 9:32 PM on June 7, 2009

Get a pin, "Union Yes!" or some equivalent. Wear it on your walk to work.
posted by tr0ubley at 9:38 PM on June 7, 2009

Yes, food. Doesn't have to be every morning, but once a week will endear you to them. Otherwise, I like to thank picketers for their hard work.
posted by lunasol at 9:46 PM on June 7, 2009

If I just want to indicate solidarity, eye contact, smile, and a raised fist get the message across well. (As a student in Montreal I'd have shouted "Solidarité!" but I can't think of a way to do the same in English, "Solidarity!" doesn't have the same effect.)
posted by mendel at 10:25 PM on June 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

I think in the US, "¡Si, se puede!" or "Yes, we can!" would be taken the same way as "Solidarité!" in Montreal.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 10:28 PM on June 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm gonna try "Solidarite" next time I see something similar.

I usually just go with the high five or fist bump, but I'm 24 so maybe that's too immature?
posted by Groovytimes at 10:50 PM on June 7, 2009

It's generally my thing to show up with coffee and sandwiches, and walk with a sign for a while if someone needs a break. But then, I'm a long time member, and exactly which union matters little to me. I help most when I listen more than I talk.
posted by scottymac at 11:32 PM on June 7, 2009

If you walk with them, grab a sign (or ask for one), so it's clear your there to support the union, rather than simply passing through. Bringing food, coffee, water or whatever is a customary way to show support. Depending on how much you want to invest in this, you could ask the workers or their picket captain what you could do to help. There may be particular times that they would want a bigger line (press conference, rally, show of strength when corporate bosses are visiting, etc.) and you could recruit a few friends to come picket with you.
posted by univac at 12:32 AM on June 8, 2009

I'm 24 so maybe that's too immature

Wow I hope not, I'm almost 50 and that would be my first impulse also.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 1:23 AM on June 8, 2009

Um, that's a raised fist with palm-side out, of course... as if you're about to knock on a very large invisible door.

(Otherwise it looks like a Ralph Kramden "shaking fist of anger", which is definitely NOT a smart thing to do to a bunch of picketing workers. Especially Teamsters.)
posted by rokusan at 2:52 AM on June 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Awesome, thanks all! I do say hey, and good luck, but I probably should strike up (heh) more conversation -- I was nervous about that because I wasn't sure if it would be an interruption. The fist-bump seems slightly odd from a girlyish-looking girl to a stranger. But coffee & snacks is a great idea, too; there's a coffee shop right across the street.

For some reason, this isn't an ongoing daily thing; they have been there twice in the past maybe six weeks, but only for one morning at a time. I guess that gives me a conversation starter for next time they're there.
posted by librarina at 8:47 AM on June 11, 2009

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