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Friday, Aug. 26, 2016

Look closer to see who is picketing

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

When unions and companies have disagreements, one of the tactics used for public information is for the union to picket the job site. I have absolutely no problem with this practice - it draws attention to what the union believes is unfair policies. They have that right and I will strongly defend their ability to picket when they feel it appropriate.

But now I read where some unions have begun hiring homeless people, students and several who have recently been released from prison to provide a picket line around a job site. The unions are paying the "professional picketers" $8 per hour. And on another front, one group has begun using residents of homeless shelters to gather names on petitions.

I have always been under the impression that those manning the picket lines were doing so because of their beliefs. I thought these were workers who were somehow being harmed by the labor practices at a particular job site. But now it appears I was wrong.

Granted, the practice of using homeless picketers does not involve all unions. But increasingly, unions are turning to these "hired feet" to display their displeasure. One carpenters union in Washington, D.C., has an average of eight picket lines each day, all manned with $8 per hour shelter residents.

Critics of the practice are quick to say the "picketers" are paid just above minimum wage and with no benefits, which seems to somewhat undermine the philosophy of the union movement.

Police generally say they have few complaints against the hired picketers. But critics still complain that the paltry wages do little help for the homeless and it gives the public the wrong impression on the grievance of the union.

I couldn't care less if the picket crews are union workers who want a fair shake or hired homeless "volunteers" making meal money. That's their business not mine.

But the next time I see a picket line I'll find myself glancing a bit closer at those marching. And in the back of my mind I'll wonder if they are convinced their cause is just or if they're just waiting for the end of the day and the cash that will go into their hands.

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Michael Jensen
Michael Jensen