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Encyclopedia > National Labor Relations Act
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signs the act. Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins is on his right.
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signs the act. Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins is on his right.

The National Labor Relations Act (or Wagner Act) is a 1935 United States federal law that protects the rights of most workers in the private sector to organize labor unions, to engage in collective bargaining, and to take part in strikes and other forms of concerted activity in support of their demands. The Act does not, on the other hand, cover those workers who are covered by the Railway Labor Act, agricultural employees, domestic employees, supervisors, independent contractors and some close relatives of individual employers. Image File history File links National_Labor_Relations_Act2. ... Image File history File links National_Labor_Relations_Act2. ... Franklin Delano Roosevelt (January 30, 1882–April 12, 1945), 32nd President of the United States, the longest-serving holder of the office and the only man to be elected President more than twice, was one of the central figures of 20th century history. ... The United States Secretary of Labor is the head of the United States Department of Labor. ... Frances Coralie Fannie Perkins (April 10, 1882 – May 14, 1965) was the U.S. Secretary of Labor from 1933 to 1945, and the first female cabinet member. ... Portrait of Robert F. Wagner in the U.S. Senate Reception Room Robert Ferdinand Wagner (8 June 1877–4 May 1953) was a Democratic United States Senator from New York from 1927 until 1949. ... 1935 (MCMXXXV) was a common year starting on Tuesday (link will display full calendar). ... The United States Code (U.S.C.) is a compilation and codification of the general and permanent federal Law of the United States. ... The private sector of a nations economy consists of all that is outside the state. ... A trade union or labour union is a continuous association of wage-earners for the purpose of maintaining or improving the conditions of their employment. ... A Collective agreement is a labor contract between an employer and one or more unions. ... The Railway Labor Act is a United States federal law that governs labor relations in the railway and airline industries. ...

Contents

The original act

The Wagner-Connery Act — signed into law on July 5, 1935 — established a federal agency, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), with the power to investigate and decide on charges of unfair labor practices and to conduct elections in which workers would have the opportunity to decide whether they wanted to be represented by a union. The NLRB was given more extensive powers than the much weaker organization of the same name established under the National Industrial Recovery Act, which the United States Supreme Court had declared unconstitutional. is the 186th day of the year (187th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... 1935 (MCMXXXV) was a common year starting on Tuesday (link will display full calendar). ... The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is an independent agency of the United States Government charged with conducting elections for union representation and with investigating and remedying unfair labor practices. ... The National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA) or National Recovery Act (NRA) of June 16, 1933, was part of President Franklin Delano Roosevelts New Deal. ... The Supreme Court Building, Washington, D.C. The Supreme Court Building, Washington, D.C., (large image) The Supreme Court of the United States, located in Washington, D.C., is the highest court (see supreme court) in the United States; that is, it has ultimate judicial authority within the United States...


In its original version, passed in the midst of the Great Depression, the Wagner-Connery Act only prohibited unfair labor practices by employers. The Act also forced individual employees to either join a union or pay dues if a majority of workers chose to form a union. The Great Depression was a time of economic down turn, which started after the stock market crash on October 29, 1929, known as Black Tuesday. ...


The act went for over ten years, until 1947 before being amended by the Taft-Hartley amendments, giving individuals the freedom to choose to not join a union. This was an amendment passed 12 years later to impose a number of restrictions on unions and to limit the application of the act in other ways. The NLRB has lasted over seventy years, and still remains in effect today. The Taft-Hartley Act severely restricted the activities and power of labor unions in the United States. ...


At the time Congress passed the act, the nation had just gone through a number of tumultuous general strikes in San Francisco, Minneapolis, and Toledo, Ohio. The Act was passed in order to divert those violent conflicts into more manageable channels, by granting workers' legal rights to form unions and to bargain collectively, while creating an administrative mechanism to determine whether they wanted union representation. While the act did not deprive employers of many of their basic managerial prerogatives, it legalized the right to strike, barred employers from firing workers for engaging in union activities, subjected management decisions to scrutiny by the federal government and mandated that an employer negotiate with a union once it was certified as the monopoly bargaining agent by the NLRB. A general strike is a strike action by an entire labour force in a city, region or country. ... Nickname: Location of the City and County of San Francisco, California Coordinates: , Country United States of America State California City-County San Francisco Government  - Mayor Gavin Newsom Area  - City  47 sq mi (122 km²)  - Land  46. ... Nickname: Motto: En Avant (French: Forward) Location in Hennepin County and the state of Minnesota Coordinates: , Country United States State Minnesota Counties Hennepin Government  - Mayor R.T. Rybak (DFL) Area  - City 58. ... Nickname: Location in the state of Ohio Coordinates: Country United States State Ohio County Lucas Founded 1833 Government  - Mayor Carty Finkbeiner (D) Area  - City 84. ...


Enforcement of the act

In the first few years of the Wagner Act many employers simply refused to recognize it as law. The United States Supreme Court had already struck down a number of other statutes passed during the New Deal on the grounds that Congress did not have the constitutional authority to enact them under its power to regulate interstate commerce. Most of the initial appellate court decisions reached the same conclusion, finding the Act unconstitutional and therefore unenforceable. Many unions did not bother to use the NLRB in the first few years of its passage, choosing instead to strike for recognition, using methods such as the sitdown strike used by the United Auto Workers in the Flint Sit-Down Strike and dozens of other labor disputes in the mid-1930s. The Supreme Court Building, Washington, D.C. The Supreme Court Building, Washington, D.C., (large image) The Supreme Court of the United States, located in Washington, D.C., is the highest court (see supreme court) in the United States; that is, it has ultimate judicial authority within the United States... The New Deal was the title President Franklin D. Roosevelt gave to the series of programs he initiated between 1933 and 1938 with the goal of providing relief, recovery, and reform (3 Rs) to the people and economy of the United States during the Great Depression. ... A sitdown strike is a form of civil disobedience in which an organized group of workers, usually employed at a factory or other centralized location, take possession of the workplace by sitting down at their stations, effectively preventing their employers from replacing them with scab labor or, in some cases... The United Auto Workers (UAW), headquartered in Detroit, Michigan, officially the United Automobile, Aerospace & Agricultural Implement Workers of America International Union, is one of the largest labor unions in North America, with more than 500,000 members in the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico organized into approximately 950 union... Sit-down strikers at Fisher Body Plant (1937) The Flint Sit-Down Strike changed the United Automobile Workers from a collection of isolated locals on the fringes of the industry into a major union and led to the unionization of the United States automobile industry. ...


It was not until the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the statute in 1937 in National Labor Relations Board v. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corporation that the Wagner Act became law in practical terms as well. That was a surprising decision, issued as the controversy over Roosevelt’s “court packing plan” was still hot—one wag called it “the switch in time that saved nine”—that marked a fundamental change in United States constitutional law and in the power of the federal government. Holding Congress had the power, under the Commerce Clause, to regulate labor relations. ... Franklin Delano Roosevelt (January 30, 1882–April 12, 1945), 32nd President of the United States, the longest-serving holder of the office and the only man to be elected President more than twice, was one of the central figures of 20th century history. ... The Judiciary Reorganization Bill of 1937, frequently called the Court-packing Bill, was a proposal and signed into law in 1937 by United States President Franklin Roosevelt for power to appoint an extra Supreme Court Justice for every sitting Justice over the age of 70 and six months. ... “The switch in time that saved nine” was the name given by the press to the apparent sudden shift by Justice Owen J. Roberts from the conservative wing of the Supreme Court (represented by the Four Horsemen) to the liberal wing (represented by Three Musketeers) in the case West Coast...


The Supreme Court, for its part, generally upheld the NLRB's interpretation of the Wagner Act in those early years, but imposed two major limitations on it. The Court held in National Labor Relations Board v. Mackay Radio & Telephone Co. in 1938 that, while employers could not fire workers for going out on strike, they could permanently replace them — a seemingly semantic distinction that, in practice, sharply limited workers' right to strike. The Court later held in National Labor Relations Board v. Virginia Electric & Power Co. that the First Amendment to the Constitution barred the NLRB from making it illegal for employers to express their opposition to unionism, so long as they did not try to coerce or threaten workers with reprisals for exercising their rights. The first ten Amendments to the U.S. Constitution make up the Bill of Rights. ...


The act was immediately controversial. The American Federation of Labor and some employers accused the NLRB of favoring the Congress of Industrial Organizations, particularly when determining whether to hold union elections in plantwide, or wall-to-wall, units, which the CIO usually sought, or to hold separate elections in separate craft units, which the craft unions in the AFL favored. While the NLRB initially favored plant-wide units, which tacitly favored the CIO's industrial unionism, it retreated to a compromise position several years later under pressure from Congress that allowed craft unions to seek separate representation of smaller groups of workers at the same time that another union was seeking a wall-to-wall unit. The American Federation of Labor (AFL) was one of the first federations of labor unions in the United States. ... The Congress of Industrial Organizations, or CIO, was a federation of unions that organized industrial workers in the United States and Canada in 1935-1955. ... Industrial unionism is a labor union organizing method through which all workers in the same industry are organized into the same union — regardless of skill or trade — thus giving workers in one industry, or in all industries, more leverage in bargaining and in strike situations. ...


Employers and their allies in Congress also criticized the NLRB for its expansive definition of "employee" and for allowing supervisors and plant guards to form unions, sometimes affiliated with the unions that represented the employees whom they were supposed to supervise or police. Many accused the NLRB of a general pro-union and anti-employer bias, pointing to the Board's controversial decisions in such areas as employer free speech and "mixed motive" cases, in which the NLRB held that an employer violated the Act by firing an employee for anti-union reasons, even if the employee had engaged in misconduct. In addition, employers campaigned over the years to outlaw a number of union practices such as closed shops, secondary boycotts, jurisdictional strikes, mass picketing, strikes in violation of contractual no-strike clauses, pension and health and welfare plans sponsored by unions and multi-employer bargaining. A closed shop is a business or industrial establishment whose employees are required to be union members or to agree to join the union within a specified time after being hired. ... A secondary boycott is an attempt by labor to convince others to stop doing business with a particular firm because that firm does business with another firm that is the subject of a strike and/or a primary boycott. ... Jurisdictional strike is a concept in United States labor law that refers to a concerted refusal to work undertaken by a union to assert its members’ right to particular job assignments and to protest the assignment of disputed work to members of another union or to unorganized workers. ...


Amendment of the act

Opponents of the Wagner Act introduced several hundred bills to amend or repeal the law in the decade after its passage. All of them failed or were vetoed until the passage of the Taft-Hartley amendments in 1947. The Taft-Hartley Act severely restricted the activities and power of labor unions in the United States. ...


The Taft-Hartley amendments made sweeping changes in U.S. labor law: they outlaw secondary boycotts and closed shops, allow individual states to outlaw union security clauses by passing what opponents of compulsory unionism call “right-to-work” laws, require unions and employers to give sixty days' notice before they may undertake strikes or other forms of economic action, give the President authority to intervene in strikes or potential strikes that create a national emergency, exclude supervisors from coverage under the Act, require special treatment for professional employees and guards, codify the Supreme Court's earlier ruling that employers have a constitutional right to express their opposition to unions, give employers the right to file a petition asking the Board to determine if a union represents a majority of its employees, and allow employees to petition to oust their union or to invalidate the union security provisions of any existing collective bargaining agreement. Union Security is the enactment of various policies in an employer-union agreement to ensure the unions continued survival. ... ... Federal courts Supreme Court Chief Justice Associate Justices Elections Presidential elections Midterm elections Political Parties Democratic Republican Third parties State & Local government Governors Legislatures (List) State Courts Counties, Cities, and Towns Other countries Politics Portal      The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) is the highest judicial body in the...


The amendments also involved the federal courts more directly in enforcing the secondary boycott provisions of the act by giving employers the right to sue unions for damages caused by a secondary boycott, while giving the General Counsel exclusive power to seek injunctive relief against such activities. The Taft-Hartley amendments also provide for federal court jurisdiction to enforce collective bargaining agreements while imposing a number of procedural and substantive standards that unions and employers must meet before they may use employer funds to provide pensions and other employee benefits to unionized employees. Look up Injunction in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... The Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) is the contract between the NHL and the NHLPA that defines the structure of procedural, financial, and disciplinary relationships between the NHL, its teams, and its players. ...


Congress amended the act again in 1959, when it enacted new restrictions outlawing hot cargo agreements, which require an employer to cease doing business with other employers in some circumstances, and limiting unions' ability to use recognitional picketing to obtain union recognition without going through an NLRB-conducted election. Congress extended coverage of the Act in 1974 to apply to workers at health care institutions. 1959 (MCMLIX) was a common year starting on Thursday of the Gregorian calendar. ... A recognition strike is an industrial strike implemented in order to force a particular employer or industry to recognize a trade union as the legitimate collective bargaining agent for a companys workers. ...


Unions have made repeated efforts over the past fifty years to amend the act to eliminate its right-to-work provisions, expand construction unions' right to picket at sites where other building trades employees work, strengthen the protections for employees fired during organizing campaigns, require the NLRB to prosecute violations of the Act more aggressively, and limit employers' power to hire permanent replacements for strikers. None of those efforts have succeeded.


See also

Portal:Organized Labour
Organized Labour Portal

 
 

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