A History of Trade Unionism in the United States

By Selig Perlman | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 7
TRADE UNIONISM AND THE COURTS

While it was in the nineties that trade unionists first tasted the sweets of institutionalization in industry through "recognition" by employers, it was also during the later eighties and during the nineties that they experienced a revival of suspicion and hostility on the part of the courts and a renewal of legal restraints upon their activities, which were all the more discouraging since for a generation or more they had practically enjoyed noninterference from that quarter. It was at this period that the main legal weapons against trade unionism were forged and brought to a fine point in practical application. The history of the courts' attitude to trade unionism may therefore best be treated from the standpoint of the nineties.

The subject of court interference was not altogether new in the eighties. We took occasion to point out the effect of court interference in labor disputes in the first and second decades of the nineteenth century and again in the thirties. Mention was made also of the court's decision in the Theiss boycott case in New York in 1886, which proved a prime moving factor in launching the famous Henry George campaign for Mayor. And we gave due note to the rôle of court injunctions in the Debs strike of 1894 and in other strikes. Our present interest is, however, more in the court doctrines than in their effects: more concerned with the development of the legal

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