The Labor Injunction

Deprived of the criminal law as a weapon to use against labor, employers in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries resorted to the courts for a different kind of assistance: the injunction.

An injunction is an order from a court requiring some one to do something or to refrain from doing something.  If the person under the injunction does not obey it, he/she can be made to pay a fine and /or be incarcerated.  It can be a very effective tool if one knows how to use it.

Employers found the courts more then willing to enjoin labor strikes during this time period.  Judges, like most people, were appalled at the violence and destruction accompanying a strike.  Thus, judges believed that by enjoining the strike, they would best serve the needs of society.  In actuality, they wound up serving the needs of the industrialists because, by enjoining the strike, they deprived labor of its most potent weapon.

Congress, in an attempt to help balance the scales, passed the Clayton Anti-Trust Act in 1914.  Unfortunately for labor, the law contained technical flaws that rendered it virtually useless.  This situation was rectified in 1932, however, with the passage of the Norris-LaGuardia Act which effectively banned federal courts from issuing injunctions in labor disputes except in certain narrow situations.

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Officer Robert Neville

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