Writings and Speeches of Eugene V. Debs

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GROWTH OF THE INJUNCTION1

In the month of December, 1893, something over eleven years ago, a federal injunction was issued that broke all the records up to that time and stirred up the whole country. This injunction was issued by James G. Jenkins, judge of the United States Circuit Court, and restrained the employees of the Northern Pacific railway from quitting the service of that company under penalty of being found guilty of contempt and sent to jail.

The facts in the case, which are recalled by a recently published interview with Judge Jenkins, who has retired from the bench, were as follows:

The Northern Pacific, robbed and wrecked by the knaves who had control of its affairs, applied to the federal court in the person of Judge Jenkins for a receivership, which was promptly granted. Following this order of the court and the appointment of the receivers, the latter petitioned the court for an order making sweeping reductions in the wages of employees, and fearing that a strike might follow, the receivers asked the court at the same time to issue an order restraining the employees from leaving the service of the company, and this was also promptly granted. It was this latter order that aroused the storm and it raged fiercely for some months. Indignation meetings were held by labor unions, notably in Chicago, where a mass meeting was called for the special purpose of denouncing Judge Jenkins and demanding his impeachment. Obedient to the indignation and clamor of organized labor, Congressman McGann, of Illinois, introduced a resolution in Congress looking to the investigation of the affair by the judiciary committee, but, of course, nothing came from it, and it was not long before the judicial crime, for such it was, was forgotten.

The strange thing about it was that the employees did not strike under such extreme provocation, and this was due to the fact that their leaders, the national officers of the unions, urged them not to do so, and united in a letter to the general manager accepting the order of the court and acquiescing in the situation. The writer, who was then organizing the American Railway Union, tried to have the employees resent the despotic decree of the court and quit in a body from end to end of the line, but other counsels prevailed and they remained at work. It would have been interesting to see the ten or twelve thousand employees quit as one and defy the outrageous order of the court, and then see Jenkins make good his order and send them

____________________
1
Social Democratic Herald, May 6, 1905.

-167-

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