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The United States Congress passed and William McKinley signed the Erdman Act in 1898. The law provided for arbitration for disputes between the interstate railroads and their workers organized into unions. But the most significant portion of the act was its provision prohibiting a railroad company from demanding that a worker not join a union as a condition for employment.

The interstate requirement meant that the law affected individuals who worked on the moving trains, such as firemen, brakemen, telegraphers, and conductors, providing that the train transported things and people between states. Workers who maintained the railroad cars and station clerks did not come under the statute's jurisdiction. While the arbitration system created by the act was voluntary, if all sides agreed to arbitration, the results were binding.

Capital and labor each chose one of three arbitrators under the act; if they could not agree upon a third, the government would - the Chair of the Interstate Commerce Commission and the United States Commissioner of Labor acting in concert to make this choice.

The Act made it unlawful to strike or fire a worker during the arbitration process; it also made it illegal to terminate the employment of a worker involved in the dispute while arbitration was pending, except for neglecting duty or inefficiency.

In Adair v. United States (1908), the United States Supreme Court declared the Erdman Act unconstitutional.

References

Bibliography

Jay Finley Christ, "The Federal Courts and Organized Labor. II. From the Sherman Act to the Clayton Act (Continued)," The Journal of Business of the University of Chicago (1930), pp. 341-375.

David A. McCabe, "Federal Intervention in Labor Disputes Under the Erdman, Newlands, and Adamson Acts," Proceedings of the Academy of Political Science in the City of New York, Vol. 7, No. 1, Labor Disputes and Public Service Corporations. (Jan., 1917), pp. 94-107.

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