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 Protective Wings of the Norris-La Guardia Act (1940-1941)

UNITED STATES v. HUTCHESON

I

For more than half a century organized labor in the United States conducted a bitter campaign against the application of the Sherman Antitrust Act to labor unions. Many an injunction was issued against unions under that act. For example, approximately three hundred were issued in connection with the railway shopmen's strike of 1922. Labor demanded relief from "government by injunction," its rallying slogan against the act. When Congress enacted the Clayton Act in 1914, labor thought it would no longer be plagued by the Sherman Act. But when its Magna Carta vanished as a result of the decisions of the Supreme Court in the Duplex and Bedford cases, organized labor again turned to Congress for legislative help. Congress was sympathetic to labor's plea, especially because the Supreme Court's narrow construction of the Clayton Act was contrary to Congressional intent. Accordingly, in 1932, Congress enacted the Norris-La Guardia Act, designed to limit drastically the jurisdiction of the federal courts in issuing injunctions in cases involving or growing out of labor disputes. In this manner Congress counteracted the unfavorable decisions of the Supreme Court and restored to the unions immunity from the antitrust laws intended for them under the Clayton Act.

While the act curbed the power only of federal courts in the issuing of injunctions, it had a profound effect on labor rights in general. Many a state adopted similar legislation curbing the rights of the state courts to issue injunctions in labor disputes, except as

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