Restraints of Trade in the Building Industry

April 23, 1940

Report Outline
Barriers to Revival of the Building Industry
Trends in the Price of Building Materials
Organized Labor in the Building Trades
Efforts to Reduce Construction Costs
Special Focus

Barriers to Revival of the Building Industry

Since the beginning of its drive against restraints of trade in the construction industry last autumn, the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice has obtained 81 indictments involving manufacturers, contractors, trade associations and labor unions. Thirteen defendants have already agreed to consent decrees, and live have pleaded nolo contendere to charges of criminal violation of the antitrust laws. The remaining cases are awaiting trial.

Supreme Court rulings on the basic issues of antitrust prosecutions in the construction industry were requested by the Justice Department in a brief filed April 5, asking the Court to review an adverse decision by the Federal District Court in St. Louis. The St. Louis judge held that local building construction did not involve interstate commerce, and further that the Clayton Act gives labor unions virtually complete immunity from prosecution under antitrust laws. Unless this decision is reversed, the comprehensive program of the Justice Department for proceeding against all types of building trades restraints will be severely handicapped, if not completely stopped.

Because of the complicated nature of the construction industry, the cost of new building cannot be appreciably reduced except by simultaneous reductions in the many items which make up the total. Neither the manufacturer, the contractor, nor the workman can hope for a greater volume of business by reducing his share without corresponding action by the others. The situation has been described by Corwin Edwards, United State Attorney in charge of the activities of the Antitrust Division in the housing field:

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Antitrust and Monopolies
Antitrust and Monopolies
Regional Planning and Urbanization