A labor ordinance passed by the Indianapolis City Council September 19, 1919, forbade all forms of picketing by striking workers in the city and imposed fines and prison terms on offenders. The Associated Employers Of Indianapolis, in its desire to make Indianapolis an “open shop” city, led the movement for the ordinance. In addition, both the Indianapolis News and INDIANAPOLIS STAR supported the measure through their editorial policies. The Indianapolis Times, however, was critical of the ordinance. All attempts by labor to repeal the ordinance failed. The Indiana Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the ordinance in 1924, and it remained in effect until rendered unenforceable by a pro-labor, anti-injunction law in 1933.

The ordinance should be considered in the context of national labor relations following World War I. In 1919, a national strike wave occurred as workers sought to maintain their wartime gains in wages and improved working conditions. Indianapolis business and political leaders, startled by violent strikes by telephone workers in Linton, Indiana, and Standard Steel Car Company workers in Hammond during 1919, and remembering the city’s own Street Railway Strike Of 1913, believed that the ordinance would help combat the influence of unions in Indianapolis and keep similar strikes from occurring in the capital. The city ordinance, combined with active opposition by employers against labor unions, led to serious setbacks for the labor movement in Indianapolis during the 1920s.

Revised February 2021

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