Law Quadrangle (formerly Law Quad Notes)


An article by Russell A. Smith, Edson R. Sunderland Professor of Law, reprinted from the Michigan Challenge Magazine.

In 1806 some cordwainers (bootmakers) were charged with a criminal conspiracy for banding together in what we would now call a "labor organization" with the intention of using their combined strength, through strike action if necessary, to increase their wages. The judge, instructing the jury, condemned the conspiracy on the qrounds that it was designed to interpose arbitrary and artificial restraints in the determination of employee wages and hence was inconsistent with public policy. The judge was reflecting some basic policy premises, obviously anti-union, held at that time by those in position to govern.