This affords us the opportunity to examine the situation from another angle; it's easy to sympathize with workers who have had their wages cut, but we now see the other face of the union. Workers who are reluctant to join, or are opposed to the strike, are badly treated and shunned in an attempt to break them down and force them to join the union. It would take a strong person to stand against the abuse of his fellow workers, whom he must not only work with every day, but also live with in the same community and social circle. Margaret points out to Nicholas that this policy makes the union every bit the tyrant they accuse the masters of being. He responds by saying that dissidents are harrassed into joining the union for their own good. He doesn't seem to realize that this echoes almost exactly the sentiments of many of the masters- that the hands are incapable of understanding what's best for them and must be guided with a strong hand.
Nicholas Higgins' character has also been gradually changing in the wake of Bessy's death, his association with Margaret and Mr. Hale, and finally, Boucher's suicide. The last event shocks him out of his anger, and his sense of guilt and belief in his partial responsibilty compels him to take over care of Boucher's family. Ironically, this responsibility makes him understand as he had not before Boucher's desperation. Higgins had despised him for his weakness in joining the riot and for going to the factories begging them to take him back. Now that he has to support Boucher's family, however, Nicholas is himself driven to swallow his pride and ask for a job at the mills.
The fact is, Mrs. Thornton resents Margaret. She had feared that Margaret would take her son from her, which was bad enough. The thought, though, that Margaret believed herself too good to marry John has turned that fear into resentment. She acknowledges to herself- grudgingly- that Margaret is a much stronger and more intelligent person than her own daughter Fanny, but this doesn't endear Margaret to her. She goes to see Margaret out of a sense of responsibility due to her promise to the late Mrs. Hale, but she also relishes the opportunity to speak her mind and take Margaret to task for her supposed behaviour. This ends about as well as you might imagine.