The consumer product boycott is a traditional weapon employed by organized labor in disputes with employers. Picketing to solicit support from the public and other workers is also a traditional labor tactic. The legality of seeking support by combining these two methods--picketing a retailer to urge a consumer boycott of the primary employer's product-has been a source of disagreement among the Supreme Court, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, and the National Labor Relations Board. The contested issue is whether picketing to instigate a product boycott on the premises of an employer with whom the union has no dispute-the secondary employer-violates section 8(b)(4)(ii)(B) of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), which prohibits threatening, coercing, or restraining any employer in order to force that employer to stop doing business with any other person. Read literally, the statute would prohibit any product picketing at a secondary site. The Supreme Court in NLRB v. Fruit & Vegetable Packers Local 700 (Tree Fruits) has held, however, that product picketing does not threaten, restrain, or coerce the retailer if the picketing requests only that consumers not purchase the struck product and does not ask them to boycott the secondary employer altogether.
Ann C. Hodges, Note to Retail Store Employees Union Local 1001 v. NLRB (Safeco Title Insurance Co.): Extending Tree Fruits to Protect Picketing of Predominant Product Secondaries, 74 Nw. U. L. Rev. 970 (1980).