What Was the Significance of Commonwealth V. Hunt?

Commonwealth v. Hunt established the right of trade unions to exist. It also established legal precedent for the union requirement of closed shops. Before this ruling, union members were viewed as conspirators working against capitalism.

Commonwealth v. Hunt had its roots in a case brought against the Boston Society of Journeymen Bootmakers by Jeremiah Home. Home had refused to pay fees to the union. As a result, the union used its influence with Home's employer to have him fired. Home brought suit against seven of the leaders. They were tried and found guilty of conspiracy and restraint of trade in a municipal court in 1840. The case was appealed to the Massachusetts Supreme Court, where the verdict was overturned in 1842.

Unions developed in the United States when the Industrial Revolution spurred an increase in manufacturing jobs. Many of these jobs offered low wages and poor working conditions. To improve the position of the worker, many groups began to form.

Unions negotiate with management for better working conditions through the use of collective bargaining. Members pay dues to support the organization and elect people to represent them in negotiations with management. Union members may stop work as a method of protesting labor conditions or as a means of negotiating an agreement. This practice is known as a strike.