Unions before the Bar: Historic Trials Showing the Evolution of Labor Rights in the United States

By Elias Lieberman | Go to book overview

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The Sherman Act in Modern Dress (1937-1940)

APEX HOSIERY COMPANY v. LEADER

I

For many years, union organization in the textile industry in the United States had been more spectacular than solid. There were strikes but little stable collective bargaining. The most stabilized local unions in the industry were in specific and rather specialized crafts, such as bleaching and dyeing and the production of fullfashioned hosiery.

In 1901 the United Textile Workers of America, the first national textile organization, was formed. Its achievements long remained meager. The great textile workers' uprising of 1912 in Lawrence, Massachusetts, and the later strikes of the Paterson silk workers were led by dissident and radical groups like the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) rather than by the national union in the industry. In the period 1916-1919, the United Textile Workers of America showed strength. It actually won the 48-hour week in the northern mills of the industry and made some gains in the South. But during the deflation of 1920-1921, following World War I, it lost its few gains in the South and in 1922 it failed in its strikes in New England.

Labor conditions in textile mills again deteriorated, particularly in the South, where long hours, low wages, "the stretch-out system" (increasing the number of machines a worker was required to tend) were the rule by 1929-1930. A desperate outburst of strikes followed. Southern textile workers struck in Carolina cotton towns, notably Gastonia and Marion, and in rayon centers like Elizabethton, Tennessee. The strikes were crushed by the sweeping use of injunctions,

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