Readings on the Relation of Government to Property and Industry

By Samuel P. Orth | Go to book overview

JUDICIAL REASONS FOR ILLEGALITY OF BOYCOTTS
BY HARRY W. LAIDLER(Chapter XII, "Boycotts and the Labor Struggle," John Lane Company, New York. Copyrighted.)While the primary boycott has secured the sanction of most courts, secondary and compound boycotts have been vigorously condemned by the majority. The legal reasoning is often not well defined, and in many instances, is obscured by legal verbiage which, to the layman, often seems unnecessary and confusing.Generally boycotting has been considered an outlawed weapon on the ground that it constituted a common law conspiracy. A conspiracy has been defined as a combination of two or more organized to accomplish an illegal end, or a legal end by illegal means.Some courts have decided that the boycott is reprehensible because the means employed are illegal. The former position has generally been taken toward the secondary boycott; the latter, toward the compound boycott. The judges holding that the object of the boycott is illegal, declare that it proposes to do one of the following things, each of which is illegal:
To injure another in his trade, business or property.
To restrain or block the avenues of trade or commerce.
To induce another to break his contract.

Others admit that the ultimate object of the boycott, that of improving the condition of labor, might be a legal one, but declare that its immediate object is that of injury, and that the law can take cognizance only of this immediate object. Still other judges in this group pronounce the boycott illegal, not merely on the ground of injury, but because such injury is accompanied by malice or is without justifiable cause.

The second general class of judges emphasizes the illegal means employed -- threats, coercion, intimidation, violence, extortion, misrepresentation -- and proclaims the boycott's illegality because of the employment of one or more of these means. The question of whether a suppression of boycotts interferes with freedom of speech and of the press has brought forward special arguments. Let us analyze more closely the reasoning of the court.


THE LAW OF COMBINATION

Ignoring the charge that boycotting constitutes a nuisance, we find that the early courts were prone to argue that all combinations

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