Using the Courts to Undercut Union Power
by Lee Sustar
21 May 09 | SWO
Lee Sustar looks at the court order banning an L.A. teachers’ strike last week in the context of the long history of anti-union judges intervening in labor struggles.
The judge who barred a one-day strike by Los Angeles teachers May 15 cited student safety as a primary concern.
In reality, Los Angeles County Superior Judge James Chalfant was acting on behalf of powerful political forces that want to break United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA). And by issuing a restraining order against the union–including threats of fines that would bankrupt it–Chalfant was following in a long American tradition of using “injunction judges” and other government intervention against workers’ democratic right to strike.
By the late 19th century, the anti-strike injunction was already commonplace, as U.S. workers struggled to organize militant and effective labor organizations. The great railroad workers’ uprising of 1877, the bitter fight for the eight-hour day in the 1880s and the dramatic Pullman rail strike of 1894 were all met with state repression. Strikebreaking by state militias–the forerunners of today’s National Guard–was commonplace. >>>