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David Ray Papke reexamines the events and personalities surrounding the 1894 strike, related proceedings in the Chicago trial courts, and the 1895 Supreme Court decision, In re Debs, which set important standards for labor injunctions. He shows how the Court, by upholding Debs's contempt citation, dealt fatal blows to broad-based unionism in the nation's most important industry and to any hope for a more evenhanded form of judicial involvement in labor disputes-thus setting the stage for labor law in decades to come.
The Pullman case was a defining moment in the often violent confrontation between capital and labor. It matched wealthy industrialist George Pullman against Debs and gave a stage to Debs's fledgling attorney Clarence Darrow. Throughout the trial, capital and labor tried to convince the public of the justice of their cause: Debs decrying the company's treatment of workers and Pullman raising fears of radical unionists. Papke provides an analytically concise and highly readable account of these proceedings, offering insight into the strengths and weaknesses of the law at the peak of industrial capitalism, showcasing Debs's passionate commitment to workers' rights, and providing a window on America during a period of rapid industrialization and social transformation.
Papke shows that the law was far from neutral in defending corporate interests and suggests what the Pullman case, by raising questions about both the legitimacy of giant corporations and the revolutionary style of industrial unions, can teach us about law and legal institutions in our own time. His book captures the passions of industrial America and tells an important story at the intersection of legal and cultural history.
1. Pullman, Debs, and Chicago in the 1890s
2. The Strike and Boycott
3. The Strike on Trial
4. In the Eyes of the Unites States Supreme Court
5. Ramifications and Conclusions