Like Countable?

Install the App
TRY NOW

On This Date: FDR's National Labor Relations Act Took Effect

by Countable | 7.6.17

On July 6, 1935, the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) went into effect after being signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt the day before. The NLRA established the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to enforce new laws regarding the rights of employees, employers, and labor unions. More than 80 years later, the NLRA still serves as the foundation for modern labor law.

What did it do?

The first major change the NLRA made was establishing the right of employees to form labor unions. It also gave employees the right to collectively bargain with their employers, which was usually done through union representatives. Collective bargaining was usually used as a tool by employees to achieve higher pay, better working conditions, and gain other benefits. Before the NLRA, employees could be fired for trying to organize into a union or collectively bargain. The NLRA also protected the right of employees to take collective action if necessary, including the ability to go on strike or picket an employer.

The NLRA also banned employers, employees, and unions from doing certain Unfair Labor Practices (ULPs). The bill outlined five ULPs that couldn’t be done by employers (and another seven were added later):

  • Interfering with an employee’s freedom of association, their ability to form, join, or assist labor organizations or to bargain collectively through representatives that they choose, and to engage in those and other activities with or without a union;

  • Interfering with the creation or administration of labor unions or supporting unions (this includes monetary and non-monetary support);

  • Discriminating with regard to tenure or having a condition of employment meant to encourage or discourage membership in any labor organization;

  • Discriminating against employees who file charges or testify against an employer; and

  • Refusing to bargain collectively with employees.

As mentioned previously, the NLRA also established an organization dedicated to enforcing labor law, the NLRB. The NLRB’s mission has remained relatively unchanged since the NLRA’s passage more than 80 years ago, and its primary responsibilities are:

  • Conducting elections for union representatives and disbanding labor unions;

  • Investigating charges by employees who believe that their employers violated their rights under the NLRA;

  • If possible, facilitating settlements when the NLRB finds that charges against an employer are valid;

  • When settlements aren’t possible, issuing judgements in cases involving an NLRA violation; and

  • Enforcing orders given by the NLRB in cases where the judge makes a decision and one party doesn’t comply.

The NLRA excluded certain groups from being covered by the new regulations. Specifically, it didn’t protect government employees, employees of airline and railroad companies, farm workers, and domestic workers (house cleaners, maids, etc). Despite this, some of these groups later gained some of the rights outlined in the NLRA. For example, government employees gained the right to collectively bargain in 1962.

Why did it happen when it did?

The NLRA was introduced on the heels of a series of strikes and protests against unfair practices by employers. In 1933 and 1934, a wave of strikes, factory takeovers, and violent confrontations between employees attempting to unionize and the authorities swept across America. By 1935, Congress was prepared to take legislative action.

Sen. Robert Wagner (D-NY) introduced the NLRA (which is sometimes called the Wagner Act) in February 1935. The Senate passed his bill in May of that year by a 63-12 margin, with 17 Senators not voting and another two voting “present.” A month later the House passed the bill, clearing the way for President Roosevelt to sign it into law on July 5 and take effect the following day.

Did it work?

The NLRA definitely succeeded at increasing union membership. In the decade after it was passed, the percentage of the workforce in a union almost tripled, from 13.2 percent to 35.5 percent (though union membership has dropped since). As an article from the University of Pennsylvania Law School points out, in the years before the NLRA, many labor strikes resulted in violence due to the lack of legal protection for strikers. After the NLRA passed, some of this violence dissipated.

- Chris Conrad

Originally published 7/6/2016

(Photo Credit: IUJAT)

Countable

Written by Countable

Leave a comment
(39)
  • Elaine
    07/06/2017
    ···

    All the advantages - Labor Day - 40 hr work week- a progressive party initiated - time to reexamine what you stand for not what you take for granted -

    Like (41)
    Follow
    Share
  • Donald
    07/06/2017
    ···

    Please remember that when US workers are treated fairly, paid well and given good benefits, the entire nation benefits... When the wealthy control workers rights, things get worse...

    Like (37)
    Follow
    Share
  • Sngrlittle
    07/07/2017
    ···

    FDR understood what social democracy looks like. Freedom from trade unions and collective bargaining means the freedom to suppress wages. The current capitalistic system based on neoliberal ideals was a pushback against FDR, as "they saw social democracy, exemplified by Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal and the gradual development of Britain’s welfare state, as manifestations of a collectivism that occupied the same spectrum as nazism and communism." It seems that the US' embrace of capitalism and movement away from FDR and his support for unions and social systems has led us ever closer to another Depression. As George Monbiot says, "Freedom from regulation means the freedom to poison rivers, endanger workers, charge iniquitous rates of interest and design exotic financial instruments. Freedom from tax means freedom from the distribution of wealth that lifts people out of poverty." It's time for us to not only remember FDR but return to his values.

    Like (12)
    Follow
    Share
  • Mauro
    07/06/2017
    ···

    The way things are going now a day I looked at this article because I was expecting it to say that republicans and what's his name were looking to repeal this law. I thought oh shit now what!!!

    Like (11)
    Follow
    Share
  • Marc
    07/06/2017
    ···

    Thank god for FDR

    Like (10)
    Follow
    Share
  • Joanne
    07/06/2017
    ···

    I am grateful that I belong to a union. I feel protected and strong because of it. I believe everyone in every occupation should be able to have and belong to a union.

    Like (6)
    Follow
    Share
  • Darius
    07/06/2017
    ···

    Workers need to have unions to protect themselves from some of the many injustices that we encounter on a daily basis. However, most companies still have the unspoken rule of trying to block unions from forming due to higher wages and the ability to actually protect their workers from unjust termination.

    Like (6)
    Follow
    Share
  • Penny
    07/06/2017
    ···

    This could be next in the GOP's agenda. Let's make sure it isn't!

    Like (6)
    Follow
    Share
  • Dara
    07/06/2018
    ···

    It is unfortunate employees today don’t recognize the benefits of THEIR unions. They fraternize with employers to benefit themselves rather than ALL employees. My union affords me healthcare, paid sick leave, family leave, due process, wage increases for all, retirement benefits, and the list goes on. My siste’s union has all of the above PLUS life-balance days, education days, education credits, and her list goes on. Thank you FDR for employee rights. Unfortunately with the aid of last weeks SCOTUS decision to deny collection of dues and uninformed employees they have eroded this right. Right to work states have done the same. I choose not to work without due process, collective bargaining, and all of my other negotiated rights. Those of you eroding these rights need to remember the employees that came before you that sacrificed to afford a middle class. SAD.

    Like (6)
    Follow
    Share
  • D. scott
    07/06/2017
    ···

    I see in the comments the plus sides and what people believe the negatives of FDR's law. Most of those who see it negative, would find fault in a straight flat road, claiming it really isn't flat because of the curvature of the earth and with laser measuring it deviates slightly. I get it. Nothing is perfect and thinking any law will be in the future, is naive and petty. Fact is, this was a good deal for the working class in America, and moving on and towards giving workers better pay, benifits and right serves America best. Working hard, isn't working long hours thought it can from time to time, but not because you have to, but because you want to. Well educated workers work smarter, and faster. And well rested workers are safer, more alert and happier. I don't believe anyone "Earns" more than a Million a year because they work harder than someone else. Timing, opportunity, resources and luck play a larger part in doing well for yourself than working more than 40 hours a week ever will and did. If the pursuit of happiness is all you believe in, then liberty, and life die with the American dream.

    Like (5)
    Follow
    Share
  • Pat
    07/06/2017
    ···

    Thanks FDR for being a Great President. I have a feeling this Law is in the GOP crosshairs. Stay vigilant!

    Like (5)
    Follow
    Share
  • Norm
    07/06/2017
    ···

    Twas a good law for awhile, but something has happened even though it's still on the books. In not for profit hospitals, for example, unions are being busted with fly in nurse's who work for 3-4-6-8 months at a time as non-union employees which have better pay but not the same responsibilities. A decent wage is thing of the past. Just look at what happened to Detroit, Michigan car industry and union workers. Unions are not wanted no matter what the law says. Trump's supporters wanted to believe things would change over night. But all they got was a president whose business is starting to look more and more like Russian banks and Putin own it and him, and by default the USA 🇺🇸. God help us from corporations and the Trumps of this world who don't pay taxes.

    Like (4)
    Follow
    Share
  • James
    07/07/2018
    ···

    This is not the Socialist 1930s

    Like (3)
    Follow
    Share
  • Jsb16
    07/06/2017
    ···

    Every bit of leverage employees have when negotiating with employers, especially large employers, comes from this law.

    Like (3)
    Follow
    Share
  • Dave
    07/07/2018
    ···

    The depression was in 1929! 1934 was when this was sign in to law. The NLRB was suggested by the federal reserve to congress to help prevent market crash and the help equality, balance and stabilize of wealth and work place safety. Other thing were suggested by the federal reserve, but we are turning back the clock. One need to remember government are to govern, corporation are dictatorship, the combination is a tyrants. That is why citizens United is dangerous to the freedom of a democracy. Union, governments and corporations need to have check and balances, also for the same reason there is a separation of church and state, there need to be a separations of corporations and state! If there is any dark government, it would be corporations and it's influence it has on religion and government around the world!

    Like (2)
    Follow
    Share
  • Dawn
    07/07/2017
    ···

    In these pro-business Republican times, so many companies regard their employees as "nothing"! Only profits count!

    Like (2)
    Follow
    Share
  • Vince
    07/06/2018
    ···

    FDR was a bottom 10 president, maybe bottom 5. His economic policies including those in the New Deal extended the Great Depression by at least 8 years, according to many economists.

    Like (2)
    Follow
    Share
  • Jane
    07/07/2017
    ···

    Workers that get benefits and get paid fairly help this nation!

    Like (2)
    Follow
    Share
  • Chase
    07/06/2017
    ···

    It's funny how FDR is given credit by almost everyone here for fixing the Great Depression. During the GD, the biggest problem was unemployment. Acts like the NLRA increase the cost of employment (along with numerous other ills like exempting labor unions from normal court processes and anti-trust rules). Henry Ford and an increase in worker production are why we work less than our ancestors not an act implemented by a horribly corrupt administration. In 1790, the average worker (mostly hard agriculture labor) worked 60 hours per week. By 1890, it was around 50 and continuing to fall. Then it leveled out in the 1930's with the passage of the NLRA at about 44. The NLRA didn't give us better hours, it locked us in at a 40 hour anchor point.

    Like (1)
    Follow
    Share
  • Karan
    07/06/2018
    ···

    Was FDR the same Progressive hero who locked hundreds of thousands of Japanese Americans in internment camps because he believed they MIGHT be disloyal to the US?

    Like (1)
    Follow
    Share