The Vanishing "Magna Carta" (1913-1921)
As a result of the clamor of the American public against the evils of business monopolies, Congress in 1890 enacted the Sherman Antitrust Law. It was thought that this law would effectively end the monopolistic practices of stifling competition and of price fixing. This antitrust act, which was "obviously aimed to curb the menacing powers of concentrated capital," was immediately turned against labor unions. In vain did labor contend that this law was never intended to be applied against unions. Aroused by the potential danger lurking in this act, unions began an unrelenting campaign specifically to exempt labor from the Sherman Act.
As early as 1900 the American Federation of Labor succeeded in having the House of Representatives adopt an amendment to the Sherman Act exempting labor unions from penalties under the act, but that amendment never became law. The Federation brought political pressure to bear so that the platform of the Democratic Party in the presidential year of 1908 declared the party in favor of exempting unions from the Sherman Act, but that did not result in any relief. An indirect method of getting relief was tried by labor by having Representative William Hughes of New Jersey, in 1910, introduce an amendment to the appropriations bill denying the Justice Department funds for prosecuting labor unions under the Sherman Act. The House passed the amendment but the measure was lost in the Conference Committee of the House and the Senate. A similar "rider" was introduced to the Sundry Civic Bill. This rider