Labor Union (West's Encyclopedia of American Law)
An association, combination, or organization of employees who band together to secure favorable wages, improved working conditions, and better work hours, and to resolve grievances against employers.
The history of labor unions in the United States has much to do with changes in technology and the development of capitalism. Although labor unions can be compared to European merchant and craft guilds of the Middle Ages, they arose with the factory system and the Industrial Revolution of the nineteenth century.
The first efforts to organize employees were met with fierce resistance by employers. The U.S. legal system played a part in this resistance. In Commonwealth v. Pullis (Phila. Mayor's Ct. 1806), generally known as the Philadelphia Cordwainers' case, bootmakers and shoemakers of Philadelphia were indicted as a combination for conspiring to raise their wages. The prosecution argued that the common-law doctrine of criminal conspiracy applied. The jury agreed that the union was illegal, and the defendants were fined. From that case came the labor conspiracy doctrine, which held that collective (as distinguished from individual) bargaining would interfere with the natural operation of the marketplace, raise wages to artificially high levels, and destroy competition. This early resistance to unions led to an adversarial relationship between unions and employers....
(The entire section is 2234 words.)
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