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The National Labor Relations Act of 1935 is informally known as the Wagner Act, for its sponsor, Senator Robert Wagner of New York.
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The National Labor Relations Board (nlrb) is a five-person federal agency charged with regulating the process of collective bargaining between American employers and their workers. The nlrb serves, in effect, as a court of appeals, investigating and resolving charges of unfair labor practices and disputes over the delineation of bargaining units and elections for union representation. Members of the board are appointed to five-year terms by the president, with the approval of the Senate.
A forerunner of the nlrb, the National Labor Board, was established in 1933 to enforce the collective bargaining provisions of the National Industrial Recovery Act (nira), but it had little power and was in any case invalidated when the Supreme Court struck down the nira in the spring of 1935. Senator Robert Wagner of New York had been pressing for some time for a more comprehensive labor law (including a strong three-person National Labor Relations Board), but had received little support from President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Then, in the summer of 1935, during a period of dramatic reform initiatives that came to be called the Second Hundred Days, Roosevelt suddenly announced his support for the Wagner-Connery Labor Relations Act. Despite conservative opposition, the bill passed both houses easily and was signed on July 5, 1935.
The nlrb, established under the Wagner Act, took an active role in supporting and extending labor's right to organize during the late 1930s. In earlier years, the Supreme Court had struck down a succession of New Deal laws; its upholding of the Wagner Act in NLRB v. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corp. (1937) marked the beginning of a series of decisions favorable to New Deal reforms.
The nlrb's role began to change after World War II. The Taft-Hartley Act (1947), in addition to expanding the board from three members to five, removed its power to prosecute, leaving it a solely judicial agency. And whereas the Wagner Act had focused exclusively on restraining unfair practices by employers, Taft-Hartley required the nlrb to examine unfair practices by unions as well. The Landrum-Griffin Act (1959) added further to the list of prohibited union actions the nlrb must investigate.
The Reader's Companion to American History. Eric Foner and John A. Garraty, Editors. Copyright © 1991 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
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This Day in History
On this day in 1934, notorious criminals Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow are shot to death by Texas and Louisiana state police while driving a stolen car…
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