Document Type


Publication Title

Buffalo Law Review



Publication Date



Labor movements, Unions, Labour Government, Labor law, legal rights


This inquiry, a comprehensive historical study of the impact of nuisance law on labor picketing in England, comprises six sections. Part I introduces general principles of labor law and nuisance law in the nineteenth century, particularly the legislative scheme of "collective laissezfaire" that emerged after 1871 and remained relatively intact until 1980. Part II examines the use of nuisance doctrines against picketers in the first phase of confrontational picketing from 1889 to 1906, when the appearance of militant unions representing unskilled workers stimulated inventive judicial responses in both private and public nuisance. Part III investigates the much heralded judicial and legislative "triumphs" that unions enjoyed in 1906, and it argues that both successes rested on flawed foundations that unnecessarily exposed picketers to the vagaries of nuisance law. Part IV explores the judicial treatment of picketers between 1906 and 1980, a period when courts widened public nuisance law and correspondingly restricted the picketing immunity to defeat a series of new picketing tactics. Part V considers the Thatcher government's efforts to dismantle the system of parliamentary and the extent to which the political environment encouraged the judiciary to refine nuisance law as a tool against labor picketing. Finally, the Conclusion analyzes the broader implications of the relationship between nuisance law and larger social and political developments, suggesting that nuisance wielded considerable political power in regulating various forms of organized popular protest in nineteenth and twentieth century England.