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Rule of Law in Labor Relations, 1898-1940

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  • Price V. Fishback

Abstract

The paper examines changes in labor regulation between 1898 and 1940 in the context of issues related to rule of law in two areas. 1) Many see the 1905 Lochner Supreme Court decision on men’s hours laws as the beginning of 30 years in which labor regulation was stymied by the doctrine of “freedom of contract.” Seeing close votes and substantial turnover of judges on the Supreme Court, the de facto situation was more complex as some states maintained their laws or passed new ones. 2) Labor disputes led to some of the greatest threats to rule of law. To limit descents into violence, states passed arbitration laws, pro-union laws, and anti-union laws. Uncertainty about the rules led to a sharp rise in strikes and violence after World War I and again when Congress and the states sought to establish the rules for collective bargaining between 1932 and 1937. A panel analysis of the impact of state laws in bituminous coal mining from 1902 to 1941 shows that the arbitration and pro-union laws were associated with less violence during periods of uncertainty. During several periods state pro-union laws were associated with more strikes and state anti-union laws with fewer strikes.

Suggested Citation

  • Price V. Fishback, 2020. "Rule of Law in Labor Relations, 1898-1940," NBER Working Papers 27614, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:27614
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Goldin, Claudia, 1988. "Maximum Hours Legislation and Female Employment: A Reassessment," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 96(1), pages 189-205, February.
    2. Jason E. Taylor, 2011. "Work‐sharing During the Great Depression: Did the ‘President's Reemployment Agreement’ Promote Reemployment?," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 78(309), pages 133-158, January.
    3. Huberman, Michael & Meissner, Christopher M., 2010. "Riding the Wave of Trade: The Rise of Labor Regulation in the Golden Age of Globalization," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 70(3), pages 657-685, September.
    4. Currie, Janet & Ferrie, Joseph, 2000. "The Law and Labor Strife in the United States, 1881–1894," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 60(1), pages 42-66, March.
    5. Rose, Jonathan D., 2010. "Hoover's Truce: Wage Rigidity in the Onset of the Great Depression," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 70(4), pages 843-870, December.
    6. Price V. Fishback & Shawn Everett Kantor, 2000. "A Prelude to the Welfare State: The Origins of Workers' Compensation," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number fish00-1, June.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H77 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations - - - Intergovernmental Relations; Federalism
    • J08 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - General - - - Labor Economics Policies
    • J52 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor-Management Relations, Trade Unions, and Collective Bargaining - - - Dispute Resolution: Strikes, Arbitration, and Mediation
    • J88 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor Standards - - - Public Policy
    • K31 - Law and Economics - - Other Substantive Areas of Law - - - Labor Law
    • N31 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - U.S.; Canada: Pre-1913
    • N32 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - U.S.; Canada: 1913-

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