Advanced Search
MyIDEAS: Login to save this paper or follow this series

Strikes and the Law in the U.S., 1881-1894: New Evidence on the Origins of American Exceptionalism


Author Info

  • Janet Currie
  • Joseph Ferrie


The origins of American exceptionalism þ the apolitical nature of American labor unions compared to their European counterparts þ have puzzled labor historians. Recently, the hypothesis has been advanced that organized labor abandoned attempts to win reform through legislation because the reforms did not have the desired consequences. We evaluate this claim using information on each state's legal environment and unique strike-level data on over 12,000 labor disputes between 1881 and 1894. We find that the law affected strike costs and strike outcomes, though not always in the anticipated directions. For example, laws outlawing blacklisting were associated with the increased use of strike breakers, while the legalization of unions, one of the hardest won legislative changes, had little impact. Only maximum hours laws had clearly pro-labor effects. Our results are consistent with the view that the American labor movement abandoned political activism and embraced business unionism because unions found the law to be an inaccurate instrument for effecting change in labor markets.

Download Info

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.
File URL:
Download Restriction: no

Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 5368.

as in new window
Date of creation: Nov 1995
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as (Published as "The Law and Labor Strife in the U.S.; 1881-1894") Journal of Labor History (March 2000).
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:5368

Note: DAE LS
Contact details of provider:
Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.
Phone: 617-868-3900
Web page:
More information through EDIRC

Related research


Find related papers by JEL classification:


No references listed on IDEAS
You can help add them by filling out this form.


Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
as in new window

Cited by:
  1. Joshua L. Rosenbloom, 1996. "Strikebreaking and the Labor Market in the United States, 1881-1874," NBER Historical Working Papers, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc 0086, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.


This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.


Access and download statistics


When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:5368. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: ().

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.