17
GOVERNMENT REGULATION
OR CONTROL OF
UNION ACTIVITIES

Charles Gregory


EARLY JUDICIAL CONTROL OF LABOR UNIONS

Before 1910, the regulation and control of American labor unions was chiefly by judge-made law. Workers who used economic pressure to spread union organization in the early 1800's were held guilty of common-law criminal conspiracy. But this device for controlling unions was abandoned around 1850. Courts soon began to allow peaceful strikes for immediate benefits. But most judges thought that campaigns to extend union organization were unlawful. Actions for damages had become the only recourse in these cases. Then around 1880, state courts developed a far more effective device—the labor injunction. This remedy protected only against the tortious invasion of property rights. But our state courts soon invented theories making most peaceful union self-help pressures unlawful.

The courts had always allowed business combinations to eliminate trade rivals and control markets. No legal wrong was done if they were pursuing self-interest and gain. But if unions sought to protect their standards by eliminating nonunion employers and workers, the courts held this to be wrongful for the spread of unionization led to monopoly. And though monopoly was not tortious according to common law, the courts declared it to be an illegal purpose for union self-help. This was enough to support the labor injunction. Moreover, peaceful secondary boycotts and organizational picketing were made torts in themselves. Thus the

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