Primary Sources Quotes on Unions in America: The Wagner Act & National Labor Relations Board

"What are the common wages of labour, depends every where upon the contract usually made between those two parties, whose interests are by no means the same. The workmen desire to get as much, the masters to give as little as possible. The former are disposed to combine in order to raise, the latter in order to lower the wages of labour.

It is not, however, difficult to foresee which of the two parties must, upon all ordinary occasions, have the advantage in the dispute, and force the other into a compliance with their terms. The masters, being fewer in number, can combine much more easily; and the law, besides, authorises, or at least does not prohibit their combinations, while it prohibits those of the workmen. We have no acts of parliament against combining to lower the price of work; but many against combining to raise it. In all such disputes the masters can hold out much longer. A landlord, a farmer, a master manufacturer, or merchant, though they did not employ a single workman, could generally live a year or two upon the stocks which they have already acquired. Many workmen could not subsist a week, few could subsist a month, and scarce any a year without employment. In the long-run the workman may be as necessary to his master as his master is to him, but the necessity is not so immediate.

We rarely hear, it has been said, of the combinations of masters, though frequently of those of workmen. But whoever imagines, upon this account, that masters rarely combine, is as ignorant of the world as of the subject. Masters are always and every where in a sort of tacit, but constant and uniform combination, not to raise the wages of labour above their actual rate. To violate this combination is every where a most unpopular action, and a sort of reproach to a master among his neighbours and equals. We seldom, indeed, hear of this combination, because it is the usual, and one may say, the natural state of things which nobody ever hears of. Masters too sometimes enter into particular combinations to sink the wages of labour even below this rate. These are always conducted with the utmost silence and secrecy, till the moment of execution, and when the workmen yield, as they sometimes do, without resistance, though severely felt by them, they are never heard of by other people. Such combinations, however, are frequently resisted by a contrary defensive combination of the workmen; who sometimes too, without any provocation of this kind, combine of their own accord to raise the price of their labour. Their usual pretences are, sometimes the high price of provisions; sometimes the great profit which their masters make by their work. But whether their combinations be offensive or defensive, they are always abundantly heard of. In order to bring the point to a speedy decision, they have always recourse to the loudest clamour, and sometimes to the most shocking violence and outrage. They are desperate, and act with the folly and extravagance of desperate men, who must either starve, or frighten their masters into an immediate compliance with their demands. The masters upon these occasions are just as clamorous upon the other side, and never cease to call aloud for the assistance of the civil magistrate, and the rigorous execution of those laws which have been enacted with so much severity against the combinations of servants, labourers, and journeymen. The workmen, accordingly, very seldom derive any advantage from the violence of those tumultuous combinations, which, partly from the interposition of the civil magistrate, partly from the superior steadiness of the masters, partly from the necessity which the greater part of the workmen are under of submitting for the sake of present subsistence, generally end in nothing, but the punishment or ruin of the ringleaders.

But though in disputes with their workmen, masters must generally have the advantage, there is however a certain rate below which it seems impossible to reduce, for any considerable time, the ordinary wages even of the lowest species of labour."

Library Topic

"Employees shall have the right to organize and bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing. The majority of any craft or class of employees shall have the right to determine who shall be the representative of the craft or class for the purposes of this chapter. No carrier, its officers, or agents shall deny or in any way question the right of its employees to join, organize, or assist in organizing the labor organization of their choice, and it shall be unlawful for any carrier to interfere in any way with the organization of its employees, or to use the funds of the carrier in maintaining or assisting or contributing to any labor organization, labor representative, or other agency of collective bargaining, or in performing any work therefor, or to influence or coerce employees in an effort to induce them to join or remain or not to join or remain members of any labor organization, or to deduct from the wages of employees any dues, fees, assessments, or other contributions payable to labor organizations, or to collect or to assist in the collection of any such dues, fees, assessments, or other contributions: Provided, That nothing in this chapter shall be construed to prohibit a carrier from permitting an employee, individually, or local representatives of employees from conferring with management during working hours without loss of time, or to prohibit a carrier from furnishing free transportation to its employees while engaged in the business of a labor organization."

U.S. Code, Title 45, Chapter 8
May 20, 1926 (updated 1996)
Library Topic

"No carrier, its officers, or agents shall require any person seeking employment to sign any contract or agreement promising to join or not to join a labor organization; and if any such contract has been enforced prior to the effective date of this chapter, then such carrier shall notify the employees by an appropriate order that such contract has been discarded and is no longer binding on them in any way."

U.S. Code, Title 45, Chapter 8
May 20, 1926 (updated 1996)
Library Topic

"The minimum wages shall be based on the wages the Secretary of Labor determines to be prevailing for the corresponding classes of laborers and mechanics employed on projects of a character similar to the contract work in the civil subdivision of the State in which the work is to be performed, or in the District of Columbia if the work is to be performed there."

U.S. Department of Labor
March 3, 1931 (revised 2009)
Library Topic

"Whereas under prevailing economic conditions, developed with the aid of governmental authority for owners of property to organize in the corporate and other forms of ownership association, the individual unorganized worker is commonly helpless to exercise actual liberty of contract and to protect his freedom of labor, and thereby to obtain acceptable terms and conditions of employment, wherefore, though he should be free to decline to associate with his fellows, it is necessary that he have full freedom of association, self-organization, and designation of representatives of his own choosing, to negotiate the terms and conditions of his employment, and that he shall be free from the interference, restraint, or coercion of employers of labor, or their agents, in the designation of such representatives or in self-organization or in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection; therefore, the following definitions of and limitations upon the jurisdiction and authority of the courts of the United States are enacted."

U.S. Code, Title 29, Chapter 6
March 23, 1932
Library Topic

"A national emergency productive of widespread unemployment and disorganization of industry, which burdens interstate and foreign commerce, affects the public welfare, and undermines the standards of living of the American people, is hereby declared to exist. It is hereby declared to be the policy of Congress to remove obstructions to the free flow of interstate and foreign commerce which tend to diminish the amount thereof; and to provide for the general welfare by promoting the organization of industry for the purpose of cooperative action among trade groups, to induce and maintain united action of labor and management under adequate governmental sanctions and supervision, to eliminate unfair competitive practices, to promote the fullest possible utilization of the present productive capacity of industries, to avoid undue restriction of production (except as may be temporarily required), to increase the consumption of industrial and agricultural products by increasing purchasing power, to reduce and relieve unemployment, to improve standards of labor, and otherwise to rehabilitate industry and to conserve natural resources."

The United States Congress
June 16, 1933
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"History probably will record the National Industrial Recovery Act as the most important and far-reaching legislation ever enacted by the American Congress. It represents a supreme effort to stabilize for all time the many factors which make for the prosperity of the Nation, and the preservation of American standards."

President Franklin D. Roosevelt
The American Presidency Project
June 16, 1933
Library Topic

"The national labor relations bill which I now propose is novel neither in philosophy nor in content. It creates no new substantive rights. It merely provides that employees, if they desire to do so, shall be free to organize for their mutual protection or benefit. Quite aside from section 7(a), this principle has been embodied in the Norris-LaGuardia Act, in amendments to the Railway Labor Act passed last year, and in a long train of other enactments of Congress.

There is not a scintilla of truth in the wide-spread propaganda to the effect that this bill would tend to create a so-called 'labor dictatorship.' It does not encourage national unionism. It does not favor any particular union. It does not display any preference toward craft or industrial organizations. Most important of all, it does not force or even counsel any employee to join any union if he prefers to deal directly or individually with his employers. It seeks merely to make the worker a free man in the economic as well as the political field. Certainly the preservation of long-recognized fundamental rights is the only basis for frank and friendly relations in industry.

The erroneous impression that the bill expresses a bias for some particular form of union organization probably arises because it outlaws the company-dominated union. Let me emphasize that nothing in the measure discourages employees from uniting on an independent- or company-union basis, if by these terms we mean simply an organization confined to the limits of one plant or one employer. Nothing in the bill prevents employers from maintaining free and direct relations with their workers or from participating in group insurance, mutual welfare, pension systems, and other such activities. The only prohibition is against the sham or dummy union which is dominated by the employer, which is supported by the employers, which cannot change its rules or regulations without his consent, and which cannot live except by the grace of the employer's whims. To say that that kind of a union must be preserved in order to give employees freedom of selection is a contradiction in terms. There can be no freedom in an atmosphere of bondage. No organization can be free to represent the workers when it is the mere creature of the employer.

Equally erroneous is the belief that the bill creates a closed shop for all industry. It does not force any employer to make a closed-shop agreement. It does not even state that Congress favors the policy of the closed shop. It merely provides that employers and employees may voluntarily make closed-shop agreements in any State where they are now legal. Far from suggesting a change, it merely preserves the status quo."

Senator Robert F. Wagner
Congressional Record, 74th Congress, 1st Session, Volume 9
February 21, 1935
Library Topic

"Experience has proved that protection by law of the right of employees to organize and bargain collectively safeguards commerce from injury, impairment, or interruption, and promotes the flow of commerce by removing certain recognized sources of industrial strife and unrest, by encouraging practices fundamental to the friendly adjustment of industrial disputes arising out of differences as to wages, hours, or other working conditions, and by restoring equality of bargaining power between employers and employees.

Experience has further demonstrated that certain practices by some labor organizations, their officers, and members have the intent or the necessary effect of burdening or obstructing commerce by preventing the free flow of goods in such commerce through strikes and other forms of industrial unrest or through concerted activities which impair the interest of the public in the free flow of such commerce. The elimination of such practices is a necessary condition to the assurance of the rights herein guaranteed."

U.S. Congress
July 5, 1935
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"Experience has proved that protection by law of the right of employees to organize and bargain collectively safeguards commerce from injury, impairment, or interruption, and promotes the flow of commerce by removing certain recognized sources of industrial strife and unrest, by encouraging practices fundamental to the friendly adjustment of industrial disputes arising out of differences as to wages, hours, or other working conditions, and by restoring equality of bargaining power between employers and employees.

Experience has further demonstrated that certain practices by some labor organizations, their officers, and members have the intent or the necessary effect of burdening or obstructing commerce by preventing the free flow of goods in such commerce through strikes and other forms of industrial unrest or through concerted activities which impair the interest of the public in the free flow of such commerce. The elimination of such practices is a necessary condition to the assurance of the rights herein guaranteed."

U.S. Congress
July 5, 1935
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"A better relationship between labor and management is the high purpose of this Act. By assuring the employees the right of collective bargaining it fosters the development of the employment contract on a sound and equitable basis. By providing an orderly procedure for determining who is entitled to represent the employees, it aims to remove one of the chief causes of wasteful economic strife. By preventing practices which tend to destroy the independence of labor, it seeks, for every worker within its scope, that freedom of choice and action which is justly his."

Library Topic

"Our basic national policy has always been to establish by law standards of fair dealing and then to leave the working of the economic system to the free choice of individuals. Under that policy of economic freedom we have built our nation's productive strength. Our people have deep faith in industrial self-government with freedom of contract and free collective bargaining."

President Harry S Truman
The American Presidency Project
June 20, 1947
Library Topic

"The National Labor Relations Board (hereinafter called the 'Board') created by this Act [subchapter] prior to its amendment by the Labor Management Relations Act, 1947 [29 U.S.C. § 141 et seq.], is continued as an agency of the United States, except that the Board shall consist of five instead of three members, appointed by the President by and with the advice and consent of the Senate. Of the two additional members so provided for, one shall be appointed for a term of five years and the other for a term of two years. Their successors, and the successors of the other members, shall be appointed for terms of five years each, excepting that any individual chosen to fill a vacancy shall be appointed only for the unexpired term of the member whom he shall succeed. The President shall designate one member to serve as Chairman of the Board. Any member of the Board may be removed by the President, upon notice and hearing, for neglect of duty or malfeasance in office, but for no other cause."

Library Topic

"We've learned a lot. First and foremost we've learned to recognize this Taft-Hartley plot for what it is - the first step toward fascism in the United States - and we've learned how to beat it."

The Holt Labor Library
August 1948
Library Topic

"What is euphemistically called collective bargaining by union leaders and 'pro-labor' legislation is of a quite different character. It is bargaining and the point of a gun. It is bargaining between an armed party, ready to use its weapons, and an unarmed party under duress. It is not a market transaction. It is a dictate forced upon the employer."

Ludwig von Mises
Yale University Press
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"It is our judgment, however, that an employer may validly post his property against nonemployee distribution of union literature if reasonable efforts by the union through other available channels of communication will enable it to reach the employees with its message and if the employer's notice or order does not discriminate against the union by allowing other distribution. In these circumstances, the employer may not be compelled to allow distribution even under such reasonable regulations as the orders in these cases permit.

This is not a problem of always open or always closed doors for union organization on company property. Organization rights are granted to workers by the same authority, the National Government, that preserves property rights. Accommodation between the two must be obtained with as little destruction of one as is consistent with the maintenance of the other. The employer may not affirmatively interfere with organization; the union may not always insist that the employer aid organization. But when the inaccessibility of employees makes ineffective the reasonable attempts by nonemployees to communicate with them through the usual channels, the right to exclude from property has been required to yield to the extent needed to permit communication of information on the right to organize."

Justice Reed
U.S. Supreme Court
April 30, 1956
Library Topic

"The distinction is one of substance. No restriction may be placed on the employees' right to discuss self-organization among themselves unless the employer can demonstrate that a restriction is necessary to maintain production or discipline. ... But no such obligation is owed nonemployee organizers. Their access to company property is governed by a different consideration. The right of self-organization depends in some measure on the ability of employees to learn the advantages of self-organization from others. Consequently, if the location of a plant and the living quarters of the employees place the employees beyond the reach of reasonable union efforts to communicate with them, the employer must allow the union to approach his employees on his property."

Justice Reed
U.S. Supreme Court
April 30, 1956
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"No member of any labor organization may be fined, suspended, expelled, or otherwise disciplined except for nonpayment of dues by such organization or by any officer thereof unless such member has been (A) served with written specific charges; (B) given a reasonable time to prepare his defense; (C) afforded a full and fair hearing."

Library Topic

"It is indeed heartening to see how the provisions of this law are being utilized by America's working men and women to safeguard against the corruption and abuses of power it was designed to correct. While such corruption and abuses have occurred only among a small minority of those in the labor-management field, all of us are agreed that in a free society these practices cannot be tolerated no matter how few may engage in them."

President Dwight D. Eisenhower
The American Presidency Project
October 7, 1960
Library Topic

"While a primary purpose of the National Labor Relations Act was to redress the perceived imbalance of economic power between labor and management, it sought to accomplish that result by conferring certain affirmative rights on employees and by placing certain enumerated restrictions on the activities of employers. The Act prohibited acts which interfered with, restrained, or coerced employees in the exercise of their rights to organize a union, to bargain collectively, and to strike; it proscribed discrimination in regard to tenure and other conditions of employment to discourage membership in any labor organization. The central purpose of these provisions was to protect employee self-organization and the process of collective bargaining from disruptive interferences by employers. Having protected employee organization in countervailance to the employers' bargaining power, and having established a system of collective bargaining whereby the newly coequal adversaries might resolve their disputes, the Act also contemplated resort to economic weapons should more peaceful measures not avail. Sections 8(a)(1) and (3) do not give the Board a general authority to assess the relative economic power of the adversaries in the bargaining process, and to deny weapons to one party or the other because of its assessment of that party's bargaining power."

Justice Stewart
U.S. Supreme Court
March 29, 1965
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"America's record prosperity stands as a monument to labor's unflagging efforts to guarantee working men and women, and their families, their rightful stake in our national life."

President Lyndon B. Johnson
The American Presidency Project
September 2, 1968
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"Thus, an employer is free to communicate to his employees any of his general views about unionism or any of his specific views about a particular union, so long as the communications do not contain a 'threat of reprisal or force or promise of benefit.' He may even make a prediction as to the precise effects he believes unionization will have on his company. In such a case, however, the prediction must be carefully phrased on the basis of objective fact to convey an employer's belief as to demonstrably probable consequences beyond his control or to convey a management decision already arrived at to close the plant in case of unionization. If there is any implication that an employer may or may not take action solely on his own initiative for reasons unrelated to economic necessities and known only to him, the statement is no longer a reasonable prediction based on available facts, but a threat of retaliation based on misrepresentation and coercion, and, as such, without the protection of the First Amendment. We therefore agree with the court below that '[c]onveyance of the employer's belief, even though sincere, that unionization will or may result in the closing of the plant is not a statement of fact unless, which is most improbable, the eventuality of closing is capable of proof. As stated elsewhere, an employer is free only to tell 'what he reasonably believes will be the likely economic consequences of unionization that are outside his control,' and not 'threats of economic reprisal to be taken solely on his own volition.'


Petitioner argues that the line between so-called permitted predictions and proscribed threats is too vague to stand up under traditional First Amendment analysis, and that the Board's discretion to curtail free speech rights is correspondingly too uncontrolled. It is true that a reviewing court must recognize the Board's competence in the first instance to judge the impact of utterances made in the context of the employer-employee relationship. But an employer, who has control over that relationship and therefore knows it best, cannot be heard to complain that he is without an adequate guide for his behavior."

Mr. Chief Justice Warren
U.S. Supreme Court
June 16, 1969
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"The Government contends that the statutory language unambiguously and without qualification proscribes interference with commerce by 'extortion,' and that, in terms of the statute, 'extortion' is 'the obtaining of property from another, with his consent, induced by wrongful use of actual or threatened force, violence, or fear. . . .' Wages are the 'property' of the employer, the argument continues, and strike violence to obtain such 'property' thus falls within the literal proscription of the Act. But the language of the statute is hardly as clear as the Government would make it out to be. Its interpretation of the Act slights the wording of the statute that proscribes obtaining property only by the 'wrongful' use of actual or threatened force, violence, or fear. The term 'wrongful,' which on the face of the statute modifies the use of each of the enumerated means of obtaining property -- actual or threatened force, violence, or fear ... -- would be superfluous if it only served to describe the means used. For it would be redundant to speak of 'wrongful violence' or 'wrongful force,' since, as the Government acknowledges, any violence or force to obtain property is 'wrongful. ... Rather, 'wrongful' has meaning in the Act only if it limits the statute's coverage to those instances where the obtaining of the property would itself be 'wrongful' because the alleged extortionist has no lawful claim to that property.

Construed in this fashion, the Hobbs Act has properly been held to reach instances where union officials threatened force or violence against an employer in order to obtain personal payoffs, ... and where unions used the proscribed means to exact 'wage' payments from employers in return for 'imposed, unwanted, superfluous and fictitious services' of workers. ... For in those situations, the employer's property has been misappropriated. But the literal language of the statute will not bear the Government's semantic argument that the Hobbs Act reaches the use of violence to achieve legitimate union objectives, such as higher wages in return for genuine services which the employer seeks. In that type of case, there has been no 'wrongful' taking of the employer's property; he has paid for the services he bargained for, and the workers receive the wages to which they are entitled in compensation for their services."

Justice Stewart
U.S. Supreme Court
February 22, 1973
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"I have pledged to make Federal regulatory agencies more responsive to the people they serve. Government regulation only works well if it is fair, prompt and predictable. Too often this has not been the case with the regulatory process that governs collective bargaining and labor-management relations."

President Jimmy Carter
The American Presidency Project
July 18, 1977
Library Topic

"A fundamental aim of the National Labor Relations Act is the establishment and maintenance of industrial peace to preserve the flow of interstate commerce. ... Central to achievement of this purpose is the promotion of collective bargaining as a method of defusing and channeling conflict between labor and management. ...

Congress ensured that collective bargaining would go forward by creating the Board and giving it the power to condemn as unfair labor practices certain conduct by unions and employers that it deemed deleterious to the process, including the refusal 'to bargain collectively.'"

Justice Harry Blackmun
U.S. Supreme Court
June 22, 1981
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"The Board's conclusion in this case that the union had no reasonable means short of trespass to make Lechmere's employees aware of its organizational efforts is based on a misunderstanding of the limited scope of this exception. Because the employees do not reside on Lechmere's property, they are presumptively not 'beyond the reach,' ... of the union's message. Although the employees live in a large metropolitan area (Greater Hartford), that fact does not in itself render them 'inaccessible' in the sense contemplated by Babcock. ... Their accessibility is suggested by the union's success in contacting a substantial percentage of them directly, via mailings, phone calls, and home visits. Such direct contact, of course, is not a necessary element of 'reasonably effective' communication; signs or advertising also may suffice. In this case, the union tried advertising in local newspapers; the Board said that this was not reasonably effective because it was expensive and might not reach the employees. ... Whatever the merits of that conclusion, other alternative means of communication were readily available. Thus, signs (displayed, for example, from the public grassy strip adjoining Lechmere's parking lot) would have informed the employees about the union's organizational efforts. (Indeed, union organizers picketed the shopping center's main entrance for months as employees came and went every day.) Access to employees, not success in winning them over, is the critical issue-although success, or lack thereof, may be relevant in determining whether reasonable access exists."

Justice Clarence Thomas
U.S. Supreme Court
January 27, 1992
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"Well, first of all, I'm grateful for the support. And second of all, I've said this before publicly, and I'll say it again—I make no apologies for it: I am a prounion guy. I think that—[applause]—I think—you know, our unions helped build our middle class. We take for granted so much stuff: minimum wage laws; 40-hour work week; overtime; child labor laws. Those things wouldn't have happened if it hadn't been for unions fighting for those rights. So even if you're not a member of a union, you've got to be appreciative of what unions have done.

Now, a lot of things that we do don't get a lot of notice. We don't always get—generate headlines. But a lot of things that we're doing have to do with how is the Department of Labor operating to make sure that workplace safety rules are enforced, to make sure that if the Federal Government is helping to finance a program, that we've got a project labor agreement in place that assures that people are paid a decent wage and they're getting a fair deal; who am I appointing to the National Labor Relations Board so that when a union tries to organize, it doesn't take 5 years just—before you can even get a ruling, and then it turns out that the ruling somehow conveniently always is against the union. So there are a lot of things that we've been doing administratively to try to make sure that people just get the fair chance to organize.

Now, look, some people don't want unions, and that's great. If you feel that you can look after your own interests, I respect that. But what we—but one of the things that we stand for as Americans is the freedom to decide I'm going to join with my brothers and sisters at that workplace to try to get a better deal, not through force, not through coercion, but just by us agreeing to bargain. And we just want to make sure that there's a level playing field in that process. That's something that I strongly believe in, and it's part of the American tradition.

And sometimes people will say, 'Well, unions are what's making us not competitive.' Well, that's just not true. Unions are only, at this point in the private sector, probably less than 10 percent of the economy. So the notion that somehow that's what is creating competition with other countries that pay low wages, that's not the case. The fact of the matter is, is that what's going to help us become competitive is if we've got middle class workers making middle class wages with middle class benefits, who can then go out and shop and support a family and buy a new car and pay their mortgage, which will create more business opportunities and maintain America as the greatest market on Earth. And if we do that, then we're going to be successful."

Library Topic

"Now, you asked specifically about one decision that was made by the National Labor Relations Board, the NLRB, and this relates to Boeing. Essentially, the NLRB made a finding that Boeing had not followed the law in making a decision to move a plant. And it's an independent agency. It's going before a judge. So I don't want to get into the details of the case. I don't know all the facts. That's going to be up to a judge to decide.

What I do know is this: that as a general proposition, companies need to have the freedom to relocate. They have to follow the law, but that's part of our system. And if they're choosing to relocate here in the United States, that's a good thing. And what it doesn't make—what, I think, defies common sense would be a notion that we would be shutting down a plant or laying off workers because labor and management can't come to a sensible agreement.

So my hope is, is that even as this thing is working its way through, everybody steps back for a second and says, look, if jobs are being created here in the United States, let's make sure that we're encouraging that. And we can't afford to have labor and management fighting all the time, at a time when we're competing against Germany and China and other countries that want to sell goods all around the world. And obviously, the airplane industry is an area where we still have a huge advantage, and I want to make sure that we keep it."

President Barack Obama
The American Presidency Project
June 29, 2011
Library Topic

"We are going to make sure that the National Labor Relations Board is restored to have some balance so that if workers want to form a union, they can at least get a fair vote in a reasonable amount of time. And we don't want, by the way, Government dollars going in to pay for union busting. That's not something that we believe in. That's not right. That tilts the playing field in an unfair way.

So you're going to have an administration that's working alongside you. There are going to be times where we want to get something done and we can't get it done, at least not immediately, and we're going to just keep on at it. I think people have started to figure out I'm a persistent son of a gun. [Laughter] I just stay on things if I think they're the right thing to do. And we should be looking for opportunities, by the way, to make sure that the labor movement is, wherever possible, finding common ground with the business community, because I want America as a whole to be competitive.

One of the problems that we've had over the last decade is that so often the business community sees labor as the problem, and their basic attitude is, well, you know what, we'll just go to wherever we don't have any problems with labor and we can pay them the lowest wages and the fewest benefits, and then just ship the stuff back here, and our profits will be good. But over time, that hollows out America and hollows out our middle class. That makes us weaker, not stronger."

President Barack Obama
The American Presidency Project
August 4, 2010
Library Topic

"From a state in which little the unions could do was legal if they were not prohibited altogether, we have now reached a state where they have become uniquely privileged institutions to which the general rules of law do not apply. They have become the only important instance in which governments signally fall in their prime function -the prevention of coercion and violence."

F. A. Hayek
University of Chicago Press
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"[T]hat it is legitimate for unions to try to secure higher wages has been interpreted to mean that they must be allowed to do whatever seems necessary to succeed in their effort. In particular, because striking has been accepted as a legitimate weapon of unions, it has come to be believed that they must be allowed to do whatever seems necessary to make a strike successful. In general, the legalization of unions has come to mean that whatever methods they regard as indispensable for their purposes are also to be treated as legal."

F. A. Hayek
University of Chicago Press
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"The National Labor Relations Board is in the news for meddling in Boeing’s decision to build some aircraft in South Carolina rather than in Washington state. To most economists, the idea that a small regulatory board in D.C. should try to centrally plan $1 billion of private business investment is crackers.

However, the vast bureaucratic state in D.C. was built by overactive left-wing...

"It may be a difficult case to prove, but the complaint filed last month by the National Labor Relations Board against Boeing is a welcome effort to defend workers’ right to collective bargaining."

"U.S. Rep. David Bonoir of Michigan left Congress a few years back after rising high in the Democratic leadership. Now he's the chairman of American Rights at Work, a new non-profit organization dedicated to protecting and promoting workers' rights to organize and collectively bargain. He tells Farai Chideya about his new job."

"President Barack Obama's National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is on a job-killing rampage. It's claiming unprecedented powers far beyond what federal law allows. Taken with Obama's other agencies, these executive actions paint a picture of what has become an imperial presidency.

A federal appeal is certain once NLRB's shocking attack on Boeing Co. goes through the administrative...

"The Taft-Hartley Act was a major revision of the National Labor Relations Act of 1935 (the Wagner Act) and represented the first major revision of a New Deal act passed by a post-war Congress."

"Of the enduring myths of economic history, few have hung on as tenaciously as the necessity and desirability of labor unions." Due to this fact, Robert Bidinotto praises Howard Dickman's book entitled Industrial Democracy in America. According to Bidinotto, the book "offers withering refutations of the historic, empirical, moral, legal, and economic arguments for compulsory...

"The American labor movement has been in eclipse for decades, but public- sector unions were one of its few remaining bastions. Now, their power too is waning."

"In what may be the strongest signal yet of the new pro-labor orientation of the National Labor Relations Board under President Obama, the agency filed a complaint Wednesday seeking to force Boeing to bring an airplane production line back to its unionized facilities in Washington State instead of moving the work to a nonunion plant in South Carolina."

"The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) is responsible for enforcing a wide range of federal laws covering workplace safety and conditions, wage and hour regulations, unemployment and retirement benefits and job training. Its mission has become more critical during the 2008-2009 economic crisis, as it administers many programs designed to track employment and industry trends and to put the...

"You might think that a U.S. company’s decision to expand its manufacturing facilities and create 1,000 new jobs here at home — rather than overseas — would be hailed by the Obama Administration as a step in the right direction, especially with nine percent unemployment. You’d be wrong. Instead, President Barack Obama’s National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is doing all it can to throw a...

"The chairman of the National Labor Relations Board hopes to have another round of regulations in place by the end of the year that would make it easier for unions to establish and win representation elections in workplaces."

"Hundreds of recent federal rulings in disputes between unions and employers could be reopened after the Supreme Court said on Thursday that it was illegal for the National Labor Relations Board to decide the cases with only two sitting members."

"For the first time ever, the National Labor Relations Board issued a complaint that an employer engaged in unfair labor practices for firing an employee who made derogatory posts about her supervisor on Facebook." According to her employer, the employee was fired for other inappropriate conduct, but as this article makes clear, social media issues are becoming more prevalent in labor...

This piece reports on a June 2011 hearing concerning the NLRB lawsuit against the Boeing company. According to Rob Bluey, "Boeing had already built its plant in South Carolina and hired workers when the NLRB sued to stop it. The NLRB’s action was viewed as retaliation against a right-to-work state in favor of heavily unionized Washington state."

"A federal agency wants to dictate exactly where businesses can create jobs.

Last month, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued a complaint against Boeing’s decision to open a new aircraft plant in South Carolina. The agency charges that the manufacturer’s expansion plans constitute 'retaliation' against unions, including the International Association of Machinists and...

"The proposed rule announced today by the National Labor Relations Board to create a standard process for union elections is an important step toward giving workers a fairer way to choose whether to form a union. The rule would reform an election process that far too often resembles Lucy pulling the football away from Charlie Brown’s foot just as he begins his kick, with scheduled elections...

"Doubling down on President Barack Obama's bold recess appointment of Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the White House announced Wednesday that Obama would also use his recess powers to fill three vacancies on the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the federal agency charged with enforcing labor law."

"President Obama's attempt to unilaterally appoint three people to seats on the National Labor Relations Board and Richard Cordray to head the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (after the Senate blocked action on his nomination) is more than an unconstitutional attempt to circumvent the Senate's advise-and-consent role. It is a breathtaking violation of the separation of powers and the...

"The current Supreme Court appears to be tentatively moving toward supporting the voluntary exchange rights of all workers. But, since all of these cases have been decided on legislative, not constitutional, grounds, all Congress has to do [to] again promote unionists’ privileges over the rights of others is amend the National Labor Relations Act. Moreover, as present justices retire and new...

"New regulations from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and the Department of Labor are designed to swell the ranks of unionized labor at the expense of workers, employers, and the U.S. economy. The new NLRB rules that would shorten union-organizing elections to between 10 and 21 days are an attempt to rush to elections before employers can present counterarguments. The proposal to...

"Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker won a recall election Tuesday, dealing a blow to organized labor, unsettling President Barack Obama's re-election strategy and signaling to Republican lawmakers across the nation that challenging government unions could pay political and fiscal dividends."

"When federal agents ruled for a second time this year that a Catholic college cannot claim First Amendment protection from federal labor laws, they brazenly ignored instructions from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and set up a potential Supreme Court confrontation."

"On this day in 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt reinstates Woodrow Wilson's National War Labor Board (NWLB) in an attempt to forestall labor-management conflict during World War II.

Engaged in a two-front war, the United States was supplying not only its own military but those of the other Allies as well. Roosevelt wanted to prevent potential labor union strikes, which would slow...

The NLRB’s latest salvo is a lawsuit against Arizona. Arizona is one of four states where voters last fall resoundingly added to their constitutions the right to secret-ballot elections in union organizing.

"Right-wing politicians and pundits are in an uproar over the National Labor Relations Board’s April 20 complaint alleging that aircraft manufacturer The Boeing Company broke the law by punishing unionized workers who had exercised their legally protected right to strike. While the case is still in the early stages—the NLRB hasn’t even held a hearing on the complaint, let alone reached a...

"The National Labor Relations Board filed a complaint last month to stop Boeing from building its new 787 in South Carolina rather than Washington State. ... Laffer and Moore claim that the NLRB’s move is unprecedented, but it is actually highly reminiscent of the 'Equalization of Opportunity Bill.' The EOB forbade entrepreneurs from owning more than one business, in order to allow less...

"BOEING IS A GREAT AMERICAN COMPANY. Recently it has built a second production line—its other is in Washington State—in South Carolina for its 787 Dreamliner airplane, creating 1,000 jobs there so far. Who knows what factors led to its decision to do this? As with all such business decisions, there were many. But the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB)—a five-member agency created in 1935 by...

"The fates of the American economy and the presidency of Barack Obama are inextricably linked, and both of them hit a bump in April. The economy added 252,000 jobs each month between December and February, but that rate seems to be slowing. Payrolls rose by just 154,000 in March and by only 115,000 in April. Unemployment dropped in April, from 8.2% to 8.1%, but for the wrong reason: an exodus...

This FAQ addresses basic questions about unions.

According to Christopher Westley, one of the few non-unionized areas is the temp workforce. In September of 2000, however, Westley reported that the unions were attempting to pull temp workers under the union umbrella. Westley goes on to report that the popularity of the temporary worker stems directly from the fact that they are non-unionized.

Noting that "[t]he labor movement is losing its customers," this piece declares that unions are seeking government help to regain their traction. Sherk then goes on to list a variety of recent actions which suggest a union-biased White House.

"The weight of evidence indicates that, for most firms in most sectors, unionization leaves companies less able to compete successfully. The core problem is that unions cause compensation to rise faster than productivity, eroding profits while at the same time reducing the ability of firms to remain price-competitive. The result over time is that unionized firms...

"Like all New Keynesians, I believe two things that are apparently contradictory:

1. We each get paid too much; 2. Because of 1, we all get paid too little.

It only makes sense if you understand fallacies of composition. What is true of each part isn't necessarily true of the whole."

"The Wisconsin Assembly early Friday passed a bill that would strip most public workers of their collective bargaining rights — the first significant action on the new Republican governor's plan.

The vote put an end to three straight days of punishing debate, but the political standoff over the bill is far from over. The measure now goes to the Senate, where minority Democrats have been...

"A Wisconsin judge has struck down the politically divisive state law pushed by Republican Gov. Scott Walker that repealed most collective bargaining rights for public workers."

"A judge in the US state of Wisconsin has thrown out a controversial law that strips most public employees of their collective bargaining rights.

The law, championed by Republican Governor Scott Walker, has been in effect for more than a year.

A Dane County circuit judge ruled that key parts of the law violated the constitution and were null and void.

Unions welcomed the...

"Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin have become the target of a chilling email death threat.

An email reportedly sent to Republican state senators in Wisconsin details what appears to be a concerted effort by the sender to murder the lawmakers for their votes to constrict union benefits."

"Wisconsin's controversial new law limiting the collective bargaining rights of public employees had been blocked for months in the wake of a lawsuit that claims Republican legislators passed the bill without giving adequate public notice.

But the law has been revived from its deathbed, after the Wisconsin Supreme Court yesterday ruled that a lower-court judge who had enjoined the law...

"Wisconsin suspended enforcement of a new law reducing public sector union powers on Thursday after a judge ruled it had not taken effect, while Ohio enacted a similar measure curbing collective bargaining by state employees."

"Left unexamined is the American labor movement's long, ugly history of racism and discrimination, one that older left-leaning historians tried their best to downplay. But the problem historically wasn't just racist attitudes among white workers, it was the monopoly bargaining powers that the government granted to racist unions, allowing them to exclude blacks and other unwelcome groups from...

Chart or Graph

The graph above from the Federal Reserve Bank tracks the Federal Government's tax revenues (in green) and spending (in blue), and then indexes them to population growth.

"At the same time that private union membership has been on the decline, public sector union membership has been surging and is higher today by 781,000 government employees than in 2000 (see chart)."

Charges alleging Unfair Labor Practices are filed by individuals, unions or employers at NLRB regional offices, prompting an investigation by regional field examiners and attorneys. More than half of all charges are withdrawn or dismissed.

The Board sets policy for the Agency primarily through adjudication. Members review cases on appeal from Administrative Law Judges and Regional Directors. This chart shows annual Board output in contested cases.

"In cases where employees are illegally fired for protected activity, the General Counsel often seeks backpay for the period of unemployment, as well as payment of dues, fines or other costs."

"Under Section 10(j) of the National Labor Relations Act, the NLRB may seek temporary injunctions against employers and unions in federal courts to stop serious unfair labor practices while a case moves through the Board's process. The General Counsel must first obtain authorization from the Board before filing a petition for an injunction."

"Under Section 10(j) of the National Labor Relations Act, the NLRB may seek temporary injunctions against employers and unions in federal courts to stop serious unfair labor practices while a case moves through the Board's process. The General Counsel must first obtain authorization from the Board before filing a petition for an injunction."

"Under Section 10(j) of the National Labor Relations Act, the NLRB may seek temporary injunctions against employers and unions in federal courts to stop serious unfair labor practices while a case moves through the Board's process. The General Counsel must first obtain authorization from the Board before filing a petition for an injunction."

"In cases where employees are illegally fired for protected activity, the General Counsel often seeks an offer of reinstatement from the employer."

Because they invest less, unionized companies often become less competitive. As a result, these companies create fewer jobs. Research shows that unionized firms shed jobs more frequently and expand less frequently than non-union firms do.

"In 2009, there were only five major strikes and lockouts involving 1,000 or more workers, the lowest annual number since the Bureau of Labor Statistics starting collecting these data in 1947 (see chart)."

The number of union customers (i.e., dues-paying members) fell throughout the 1920s from a reported peak of 5 million in 1920 to fewer than 3 million in 1933.

"Figure 9 shows union membership by major industry in 2002. The least unionized industries in 2002 were farming (1.6%), finance, insurance, and real estate (2.0%), and private household and other services (3.6%). The most unionized industries were public administration (32.3%) and transportation, communications, and utilities (27.4%)."

Clearly, the stylized facts of the post National Industrial Recovery Act and National Labor Relations Act of 1935 era are broadly consistent with the argument propounded by Rees. It’s appropriate to extend the estimation of the deadweight economic losses associated with the existence of labor unions to encompass a more extended period.

Analysis Report White Paper

"From colonial times trade unionists found the going difficult in North America. There was no prevailing ideology of 'working class solidarity' and unions were far from respectable; in fact, they had a well-earned reputation for being antisocial, even criminal. Some unions were secret societies with secret oaths, and unionists engaged in intimidation, threats,...

"The United States has had the bloodiest and most violent labor history of any industrial nation in the world."

"Some proponents genuinely, even altruistically, believed that unionism would raise the standard of living in this country. But the labor literature generally posits political idealism as the sole motive of unionists and their political allies, uncritically accepting their good intentions at face value."

"This paper examines the efforts of some circuit court judges to preserve the integrity of the judicial branch against the encroaching power of the New Deal administrative agencies, especially as represented by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB)."

In routine tracking of education-related legislation, The Heartland Institute’s School Reform News has uncovered evidence that teachers unions across the country routinely inhibit teachers from joining or speaking out about competing, nonunion teachers associations. In at least one case, this intimidation has resulted in a teacher losing his job. Most of the incidents are smaller.

"From the very beginning, unionization materially lowered employment in the auto and steel industries, and union militancy in coal mining has contributed importantly to largely eliminating employment in this once large industry. While some individual workers have profited from unions, the aggregate economic impact is strongly negative."

According to Larson, unions like the NEA seek to encourage a liberal agenda. This is demonstrated by their campaigns in favor of liberal political candidates, homosexual rights and abortions, as well as their campaigns against homeschooling and other means of school choice.

"Present Federal law regulating labor-management relations is largely a product of the New Deal era of the 1930s. While Congress has acted to raise the Federal minimum wage and has considered labor law reform affecting both private and public employees, no major new labor laws have been passed over the past several decades."

"In what follows, I will examine how current union election procedures, as overseen by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), measure up to the standards of democracy articulated by the founders and enshrined in U.S. law and jurisprudence."

"This essay first outlines some basic principles of the common law of contract, property, and tort and explains what Norris-LaGuardia and the NLRA substituted for it. It then explains the ineffectiveness of the Taft-Hartley to ameliorate the worst excesses of Norris-LaGuardia and the NLRA despite its authors’ hopes."

"Under the Supreme Court's 1973 Enmons decision, vandalism, assault, even murder by union officials are exempt from federal anti-extortion law."

"In a market economy, interactions between people take place within the context of voluntary exchange. The principal role for government in a market economy is to enforce the rules of voluntary exchange by protecting individual rights."

"Unions have a substantial impact on the compensation and work lives of both unionized and non-unionized workers. This report presents current data on unions' effect on wages, fringe benefits, total compensation, pay inequality, and workplace protections."

"Working people built America—its buildings, institutions, cultures and values. The history of work in this country helps us understand our social and economic status today and prepares us to navigate the economy and politics of the future."

"Lane Kirkland, the president of the AFL-CIO, recently claimed that the reason why labor unions are currently unpopular is 'for the same reason journalists are unpopular. We both assert our First Amendment rights.'"

"Labor laws grant employees the right to unionize and allows employers and employees to engage in certain activities (e.g. strikes, picketing, seeking injunctions, lockouts) so as to have their demands fulfilled."

"Although labor unions have been celebrated in folk songs and stories as fearless champions of the downtrodden working man, this is not how economists see them."

"During the 20th century, Congress passed a number of laws that affected the American worker. Some laws provided a social safety net that protected workers against loss of income due to unemployment, old age, or disability."

"When viewed through the lens of a 'median voter' model of endogenous union determination, the patterns we find are consistent with firms having limited responsiveness to the threat of new unionization, and unions moderating their demands in order to gain electoral advantage."

"The NLRB’s decision to issue a complaint represents an unbridled, unauthorized, and unlawful expansion of the regulatory power of an executive agency. If allowed to stand, its actions threaten business investment and job creation as well as the employment of both unionized and nonunion workers."

"Lafer's work shows instead that NLRB elections fail to safeguard workers' right to keep their opinions private; and that, on the contrary, the NLRB system results in workers being forced to reveal their political preferences long before they step into the voting booth - thus turning the 'secret ballot' into a mockery of democratic process."

"It was the intent of Congress that worker rights and labor organizing was to extend beyond the scope of a single employer, because only in this way could the bargaining power of employers and employees be equalized."

"Anyone who seeks a comprehensive treatment of the effects of labor unions, as well as the legal and economic reasons for those effects, would do well to read this book."

"In the early days of the American labor movement, numerous bloody confrontations between labor and management marred the workers' struggle for higher wages, shorter hours and safer working conditions."

The freedom to form a union is a democratic right that is under attack. Too many workers are prevented from freely choosing to band together in a union to bargain collectively with their employer on workplace issues.

"Periodically the subject of criticism, the Act and the National Labor Relations Board today are again the target of strong attack. Nonetheless, while some changes may be necessary, the Act and the Board should be retained."

"In this Article, we ask whether the National Labor Relations Act, enacted over 70 years ago, can remain relevant in a competitive economy where nonunion employer discretion is the dominant form of workplace governance."

"The classic from the great labor economist W.H. Hutt argues that it is not the strike but the strike threat that makes unions so incredibly costly to American prosperity. It hangs over unionized companies like the sword of Damocles, intimidating property owners into giving into demands at the expense of profitability."

"In 1930, W.H. Hutt demonstrated several spectacular points: labor unions cannot lift wages overall; their earnings come at the expense of the consumer; their effect is to cartelize business and reduce free competition to the detriment of everyone."

Union membership in the United States has declined significantly in recent decades. The number of union members peaked in 1979 at an estimated 21.0 million. In 2003, an estimated 15.8 million workers were union members. As a percent of employed workers, union membership peaked in 1954 at 28.3%.

"This paper explores the relationship between economic performance and US unionism, focusing first on what we do and do not know based on empirical research handicapped by limited data on establishment and firm level collective bargaining coverage."

"The first section of this article covers the relationship between unions, the rule of law, and economic rents from the origin of the union movement through the changing patterns of the three phases of its growth cycle as measured by membership..."

"CEOs of multinational corporations, exotic dancers, and children with lemonade stands have at least one thing in common. They all expect a return for their effort. Most workers get that return in a subtle and ever-changing combination of money wages and working conditions."

Trade unions are the principal institution of workers in modern capitalistic societies. For over 200 years, since the days of Adam Smith, economists and other social scientists, labor unionists, and businessmen and women have debated the social effects of unionism.


This podcast gives an overview of the governmental policies and programs leading up to and through the Great Depression. The latter half of the program delves into details behind New Deal programs and initiatives such as the AAA and the Wagner Act.

"The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) recently filed a complaint against Boeing for allegedly retaliating against its workers in Washington state for exercising their statutory right to go on strike and collectively bargain. Since then, right-wing pundits and politicians, outraged by the complaint, have attempted to undermine the NLRB's authority. Jim DeMint, saying the NLRB 'smacks of a...

"Less than one in thirteen private sector workers belong to a labor union, and both businesses and unions believe that the National Labor Relations Act is no longer relevant to today's workers. Businesses argue that the NLRA's adversarial labor-management framework does not fit into modern workplaces, while labor organizations contend employer intimidation prevents workers from unionizing and...

"For the first time in American history, unionized government workers outnumber those in the private sector. While some observers lament the relative decline of private-sector unions, others argue that while they increase wages in unionized industries, they also limit employment opportunities, depress wages in nonunion jobs, lower rates of return on investment in...

This news clip reports on the disagreement between the NLRB and Boeing over a new Boeing plant in South Carolina. The complaint arose over the fact that South Carolina is a "right to work state" where Boeing would not have to deal with union workers.

"How labor unions engaged in political activism to combat corporate influence on the U.S. Congress in the years following World War II."

"Professor Hayek shares a subtle and sophisticated understanding on the real world dynamics of labor unions."

In this two-part lecture, Woods details the development of American labor unions' power. He addresses the role of the NLRB and various court decisions, effects on employer and employee freedoms, and some common myths about the need for unionization. Part 2 is available here.

"In response to a question, Professor Freidman discusses the line between persuasion and coercion."

This video discusses a hearing on the issue of the NLRB's suit against Boeing. The video goes on to describe Boeing's plans for its airline plant and the jobs which the plant will create for the people of South Carolina.

"Stephen Moore and Thea Lee debated the merits of public sector unions. In a mock trial, Ms. Lee, assisted by Professor Shoemaker, defended against a charge that public service employee unions have harmed the country. Mr. Moore prosecuted. They made opening and closing statements and examined witnesses. The jury found against Ms. Lee in a split decision. Jeffrey Verdon presided.


"When the Republicans took control of Congress in 1947, Taft focused on labor-management relations as Chair of the Senate Labor Committee. Decrying the effect of the Wagner Act in tilting the balance toward labor unions, he wrote the 1947 Taft--Hartley Act, which remains the basic labor law. It bans 'unfair' union practices, outlaws closed shops, and authorizes the President to seek federal...

"Until 1937, the Supreme Court confined its interpretation of the interstate commerce clause to transportation across state lines, such as railroads. As a result, it found much early New Deal regulatory legislation unconstitutional. This approach led to a confrontation with the Roosevelt administration. Roosevelt proposed 'packing' the Court with additional justices he could appoint beyond the...

This video documentary describes union violence during the 1970s and 1980s. According to the video's authors, "[c]ompulsory union violence [was] created by the 1935 Wagner Act ... [and] made the 'closed shop' a national law and gave union bosses mandatory powers only equaled by government powers to tax."

"Robert Anderson discusses wage determination and how union activity both positively and negatively affects workers' wages, and also how it impacts the overall labor market."

Primary Document

"The organic act establishing the Department of Labor was signed on March 4, 1913, by a reluctant President William Howard Taft, the defeated and departing incumbent, just hours before Woodrow Wilson took office. A Federal Department of Labor was the direct product of a half-century campaign by organized labor for a 'Voice in the Cabinet,' and an indirect product of the Progressive Movement....

This case from 1935 marks one of the many times that the Supreme Court struck down New Deal legislation, this time dealing with the National Industrial Recovery act. The court ruled unanimously that the provisions of federal regulation authorized in this law were unconstitutional, as the Commerce Clause did not provide Congress with the power to regulate price and...

"Petitioner, operator of four shipyards, entered negotiations with the unions representing its employees for the purpose of securing a new agreement to replace the current contract, soon to expire. After a bargaining impasse was reached, petitioner temporarily closed down one yard and laid off employees at the others. The National Labor Relations Board found that the employer could not have...

Argued several years before the Wagner Act was even enacted, this case dealt with the issue of strikes and picketing in front of the American Steel Foundries in New Jersey. The American Steel Foundries alleged that the Tri-City Central Trades Council was "carrying on a conspiracy to prevent complainant from retaining and obtaining skilled laborers to operate its plant."

This economic classic is noted for providing us with terms for and expositions of such key economic ideas as the division of labor, "invisible hand," self-interest as a beneficial force, and freedom of trade.

"Members of a labor union, bent on unionizing a hosiery factory in which but a few of them were employed, forcibly, and in violation of civil and criminal laws of the State, took possession of the plant and held it during a protracted 'sit-down' strike, during which much of the machinery was willfully injured or destroyed and during which the business, largely interstate, was entirely...

In this speech, President Obama declared that he was a "prounion guy." In light of this, the President declared his support for labor and fair working practices, but he also declared that individuals should have the right to "look after ... [their] own interests" rather than join a union.

In a speech before a gathering of important AFL-CIO members, President Obama declared his support for unions and encouraged them to work together with the business industry. He also encouraged fair standards and practices for the labor movement.

In June of 2011, President Barack Obama hosted a press conference. One of the many issues he was asked about was the highly visible disagreement between the NLRB and the Boeing Company. The President refused to make a judgment call in the matter, but did say that "companies need to have the freedom to relocate. ... And if they're choosing to relocate here in the United States, that's a good...

"When negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement between petitioner employer and the union representing certain of its employees reached an impasse, some of the employees went out on strike, and petitioner then unilaterally granted a wage increase for employees who stayed on the job. Petitioner also advertised for and hired 'permanent' replacements for striking employees. Under...

"In its complaint, the labor board said that Boeing’s decision to transfer a second production line for its new 787 Dreamliner passenger plane to South Carolina was motivated by an unlawful desire to retaliate against union workers for their past strikes in Washington and to discourage future strikes." -...

A Supreme Court decision interpreting the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution, Carter v. Carter Coal Co. ruled the Bituminous Coal Conservation Act unconstitutional and stated that labor boards haves powers over production, but not commerce.

Speech given by the President of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis discussing the impact of collective bargaining on inflation and other economic indicators.

"Section 8(a)(3) of the National Labor Relations Act of 1935 (NLRA), 49 Stat. 452, as amended, 29 U. S. C. § 158(a)(3), permits an employer and an exclusive bargaining representative to enter into an agreement requiring all employees in the bargaining unit to pay periodic union dues and initiation fees as a condition of continued employment, whether or not the employees otherwise wish to...

A statement by Dwight Eisenhower, released with a 1960 report that highlighted the effectiveness of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act.

Eisenhower wrote, "It is indeed heartening to see how the provisions of this law are being utilized by America's working men and women to safeguard against the corruption and abuses of power it was designed to correct. While such...

"Established minimum wages, overtime pay, record keeping, and child labor standards for private sector and government workers."

"Must an employer, under its duty to bargain in good faith 'with respect to wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment,' §§ 8(d) and 8(a)(5) of the National Labor Relations Act (Act), as amended, 49 Stat. 452, 29 U.S.C. §§ 158(d) and 158(a)(5), negotiate with the certified representative of its employees over its decision to close a part of its business? In this case, the...

President Franklin Roosevelt's reaction to the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling on the Wagner Act and the media's coverage to the ruling.

"There is hereby created in connection with the Department of Labor a board to be known as the National Labor Relations Board ....

The National Labor Board created by Executive Order of August 5, 1933, and continued by Executive Order No. 6511 of December 16, 1933, shall cease to exist on July 9, 1934 ....

The National Labor Relations Board shall have authority to conduct all...

"Whereas as a result of a conference of representatives of labor and industry which met at the call of the President on December 17, 1941, it has been agreed that for the duration of the war there shall be no strikes or lockouts, and that all labor disputes shall be settled by peaceful means, and that a National War Labor Board be established for the peaceful adjustment of such disputes:


"BY virtue of the authority vested in me under Tide I of the National Industrial Recovery Act approved June 16, 1933 (Public No. 67, 73d Congress), and in order to effectuate the purposes of said Act, it is hereby ordered as follows:

(1) The National Labor Board, created on August 5, 1933, to 'pass promptly on any case of hardship or dispute that may arise from interpretation or...

A letter from President Franklin Roosevelt dispelling the rumor that he was dissatisfied with the Wagner Act. Roosevelt wrote, "I wish to call to your attention the fact that I have no intention of appointing any commission to study the operation of the National Labor Relations Act."

A statement by President Franklin Roosevelt on the signing of the National Industrial Recovery Act.

Roosevelt said, in part, "History probably will record the National Industrial Recovery Act as the most important and far-reaching legislation ever enacted by the American Congress. It represents a supreme effort to stabilize for all time the many factors which make for the prosperity of...

In his Statement on Signing the National Labor Relations Act, President Franklin D. Roosevelt lauded the Act's promise. "A better relationship between labor and management is the high purpose of this Act. By assuring the employees the right of collective bargaining it fosters the development of the employment contract on a sound and equitable basis. By providing an orderly procedure for...

The National Labor Relations Board was preceded by the National Labor Board. President Roosevelt created the Board in 1933 in conjunction with the NIRA. This statement reveals Roosevelt's NLB appointees.

A statement by President Harry Truman, attached to the veto of the Taft-Hartley Labor Bill. The veto was overridden on June 23, 1947 and the Labor Management Relations Act passed into law.

"What is euphemistically called collective bargaining by union leaders and "pro-labor" legislation is of a quite different character. It is bargaining and the point of a gun. It is bargaining between an armed party, ready to use its weapons, and an unarmed party under duress. It is not a market transaction. It is a dictate forced upon the employer."

A message to Congress by President Jimmy Carter calling for labor law (specifically the National Labor Relations) reform. Carter said, "I have pledged to make Federal regulatory agencies more responsive to the people they serve. Government regulation only works well if it is fair, prompt and predictable. Too often this has not been the case with the regulatory process that governs collective...

This legislation was the first of two acts that have amended the National Labor Relations Act.

The Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act was the second act (after the Labor Management Relations Act) to amend the National Labor Relations Act.

"The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) guarantees employees 'the right to self-organization, to form, join, or assist labor organizations, § 7, and makes it an unfair labor practice for an employer 'to interfere with, restrain, or coerce employees' in the exercise of their § 7 rights, § 8(a)(1). Petitioner Lechmere, Inc., owns and operates a retail store located in a shopping plaza in a...

Composed and signed by a handful of Senate members, this letter urges President Obama to reject the NLRB's actions against the Boeing Company. The senators argue that the actions against Boeing by the President's own NLRB nominees clearly contradict the President's ambition to outperform the rest of the world in economic progress and job creation.

In a Labor Day statement, President Lyndon Johnson lauded the Wagner Act's role in America's economic triumphs. "America's record prosperity stands as a monument to labor's unflagging efforts to guarantee working men and women, and their families, their rightful stake in our national life.

It was not by mere accident that America's major thrust for social justice came after the Wagner...

The National Industrial Recovery Act of June 16, 1933 was a forerunner of the Wagner Act. Signed by President Franklin Roosevelt, the Act was implemented by the National Recovery Administration and the Public Works Administration until it was ruled unconstitutional, in part, in May of 1935.


cited NLRA or the Act; 29 U.S.C. §§ 151-169

[Title 29, Chapter 7, Subchapter II, United States Code]


1.[§151.] The denial by some employers of the right of employees to organize and the refusal by some employers to accept the procedure of...

Compiled to mark the 75th anniversary of the National Labor Relations Act (Wagner Act), this piece gives a concise history of the events leading up to and following its passage. This collection also details the various pieces of labor-related legislation that preceded the Act.

"Respondents were members of a multiemployer bargaining group with a history of successful bargaining. After the union struck another member of the group, which continued operations using temporary replacements, respondents locked out their employees and utilized temporary replacements to continue business operations. The National Labor Relations Board found that, while the use of temporary...

National Labor Relations Board v. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corporation was a U.S. Supreme Court case that reversed the judgment of the Circuit Court of Appeals and ruled the National Labor Relations Act of 1935 constitutional.

"The Circuit Court of Appeals has jurisdiction to entertain a petition for rehearing, filed at the same term and in time under its rules, of a judgment denying an application of the National Labor Relations Board for enforcement of an order, and the three months within which a petitioner must apply to this Court for certiorari to review the decision in such case runs from the date of the order...

According to Oyez, the details surrounding this case concerned the following:

"The union representing employees at a New Process Steel plant in Butler, Indiana failed to reach an agreement over a new contract with New Process Steel. The union subsequently filed unfair labor practices claims with the...

"In the circumstances of these cases, the nondiscriminatory refusal of the employers to permit distribution of union literature by nonemployee union organizers on company-owned parking lots did not unreasonably impede their employees' right to self-organization in violation of § 8(a)(1) of the National Labor Relations Act, because the locations of the plants and of the living quarters of the...

"The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) certified unions as bargaining agents for lay teachers in schools operated by respondents, which refused to recognize or bargain with the unions; the NLRB issued cease-and-desist orders against respondents, holding that it had properly assumed jurisdiction over the schools. Exercise of jurisdiction was asserted to be in line with its policy of...

The Supreme Court ruled in the affirmative for all of these questions. This signified a major victory in the progression towards "card check."

"In the course of holding that respondent company committed 'unfair labor practices' when it refused to interview or retain 11 job applicants because of their union membership, the National Labor Relations Board determined that all of the applicants were protected 'employee[s]' as that word is defined in the National Labor Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. 152(3), even though they intended to try to...

A precursor to the National Labor Relations Act, the Norris-LaGuardia Act "curbed the power of the courts to issue injunctions or restraining orders against strikes, absent violence or fraud." Furthermore, "Congress declared the policy of the United States to be that workers were free to join unions and bargain collectively."

Pamphlets issued by opponents of the Labor Management Relations Act (also known as the Taft-Hartley Act). The pamphlet’s rhetoric included, "Common pickpockets are frowned upon in decent society. That's why it take [sic] something fancy, and even downright unreadable, like the Taft-Hartley law to make thievery appear respectable… But labor's house is built of bricks and won't blow in so easily...

This case emerged following a Pattern Makers strike in Rockford, Illinois and Beloit, Wisconsin. After several union members resigned during the strike and chose to go back to work, the union attempted to fine them. The NLRB declared that this was an unfair practice inconsistent with the law, a decision with which the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court agreed.

"The National War Labor Board was created as part of the war machinery of the country and it is passing out of existence as the need for war machinery is passing. Its existence has covered a term of barely 13 months, only one-half of which was a period of active hostilities. The War Labor Board served as a means of adjusting labor disputes without stopping production of things essential to the...

Addressing foreign labor leaders, President Richard Nixon said, "You have all heard of the American Revolution, of Washington and Jefferson and Lincoln, and many get the impression that it sprang full blown with a free trade union movement and all the other institutions that we now have in this country.

However, any student of American history knows that is not the case. There was no...

In a speech before a potentially hostile audience, President Ronald Reagan highlighted the similarities between himself and his unionized listeners. "Some people would have forgotten-except your president very graciously reminded you—that I am the first man to attain this high office who was formerly president of an AF of L-CIO union."

A photo of the author of Wagner Labor Act, Senator Robert E. Wagner, with the Act's administrator, NLRB Chairman J. Warren Madden, during a hearing before the Senate Judicial Subcommittee on January 27, 1938.

This document presents a speech by the initiator of the National Labor Relations Act. According to Senator Wagner, his bill "merely provides that employees, if they desire to do so, shall be free to organize for their mutual protection or benefit."

Over the decades, the Board has revised its rules periodically, looking for ways to achieve a broadly-shared goal: making the representation process work as well as possible.

"Mr. Chairman, Members of the House Committee on Education and Labor, thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today. My name is Bradley W. Kampas. I have actively participated in collective bargaining and labor contract administration for over 25 years. My experience includes negotiations on behalf of educational institutions, and I have negotiated in many first contract settings. While...

"My name is Clyde Summers, and I am Professor of Law at the University of Pennsylvania Law school. I have been asked to come here today by Chairman Boehner.

My limited purpose today is to provide some background on the Labor-Management Reporting Act of 1959, more commonly known as the Landrum-Griffin Act. I want to focus particularly on the fundamental premises and purposes of the...

"The Indiana State Building and Construction Trades Council and the Central Indiana Building and Construction Trades Council appreciate the opportunity to appear before this Subcommittee and express their views on one of the lawful, peaceful and effective means of Union organizing called 'salting.' This Union organizing tool is a highly successful method for labor unions to communicate with...

"The NLRB is an independent federal agency created by Congress in 1935 to administer the National Labor Relations Act, as amended, the primary law governing relations between unions and employers in the private sector. The statute guarantees the right of employees to organize and to bargain collectively with their employers, and to engage in other protected concerted activity with or without a...

"The labor of a human being is not a commodity or article of commerce. Nothing contained in the antitrust laws shall be construed to forbid the existence and operation of labor, agricultural, or horticultural organizations, instituted for the purposes of mutual help, and not having capital stock or conducted for profit, or to forbid or restrain individual members of such organizations from...

In the early 1940s, Congressman Howard Smith pursued a variety of hearings on the issue of the National Labor Relations Board. This article from TIME Magazine depicts some of the sentiments over the hearings and the labor industry at that time.

"To revise, codify, and enact without substantive change certain general and permanent laws, related to public buildings, property, and works, as title 40, United States Code, 'Public Buildings, Property, and Works'."

According to the U.S. Justice Department, the Hobbs Act "prohibits actual or attempted robbery or extortion affecting interstate or foreign commerce. Section 1951 also proscribes conspiracy to commit robbery or extortion without reference to the conspiracy statute at 18 U.S.C. § 371....

A precursor to the National Labor Relations Act, the Railway Labor Act sought "to avoid any interruption of interstate commerce by providing for the prompt disposition of disputes between carriers and their employees." It also "protects the right of employees to organize and bargain collectively."

"AN ACT To provide conditions for the purchase of supplies and the making of contracts by the United States, and for other purposes."

According to this Supreme Court decision, "The Hobbs Act, which makes it a federal crime to obstruct interstate commerce by robbery or extortion, does not reach the use of violence (which is readily punishable under state law) to achieve legitimate union objectives, such as higher wages in return for genuine services that the employer seeks."