Court okays picketing of employers’ clients

"Secondary picketing" is ruled by Supreme Court to be generally lawful
By Asha Tomlinson
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 09/05/2003

Secondary picketing is now legal. A recent decision handed down by the Supreme Court of Canada stated that secondary picketing — workers can picket businesses and other sites not directly involved in labour disputes — is generally lawful.

The Court ruled 9-0 last month citing that “union members must be able to exercise their rights to freedom of expression like any other citizen or group.” While secondary picketing is legal, workers must refrain from intimidation, property damage or criminal behaviour, said the Supreme Court.

This decision was the result of a dispute between Pepsi-Cola Canada in Saskatchewan and its unionized workers. Pepsi workers were locked out of a Saskatoon plant in 1997. In response, workers picketed retail outlets carrying Pepsi products, urging staff not to accept deliveries from the company. A Saskatchewan Court of Queen’s Bench judge ruled that workers could only picket at Pepsi’s main building, but the workers appealed the decision. They claimed their rights to freedom of expression were restricted by not being allowed to picket at other Pepsi locations. The Supreme Court upheld Saskatchewan’s appeal court decision in early January.