On July 5, 1935 President Franklin Roosevelt signs the National Labor Relations Act (Wagner Act). This pro-union act resulted in a soaring union membership, strikes, walkouts, violence, and seizures of plants. And there was a depression going on.
After the National Industrial Recovery Act was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, organized labor was again looking for relief from employers who had been free to spy on, interrogate, discipline, discharge, and blacklist union members. In the 1930s, workers had begun to organize militantly, and in 1933 and 1934, a great wave of strikes occurred across the nation in the form of citywide general strikes and factory takeovers. Violent confrontations occurred between workers trying to form unions and the police and private security forces defending the interests of anti-union employers.
In a Congress sympathetic to labor unions, the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) was passed in July of 1935. The broad intention of the act, commonly known as the Wagner Act after Senator Robert R. Wagner of New York, was to guarantee employees “the right to self-organization, to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing, and to engage in concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid and protection.” The NLRA applied to all employers involved in interstate commerce except airlines, railroads, agriculture, and government.
In order to enforce and maintain those rights, the act included provision for the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to arbitrate deadlocked labor-management disputes, guarantee democratic union elections, and penalize unfair labor practices by employers. To this day, the board of five members, appointed by the President, is assisted by 33 regional directors. The NLRB further determines proper bargaining units, conducts elections for union representation, and investigates charges of unfair labor practices by employers. Unfair practices, by law, include such things as interference, coercion, or restraint in labor’s self-organizing rights; interference with the formation of labor unions; encouragement or discouragement of union membership; and the refusal to bargain collectively with a duly chosen employee representatives.
The constitutionality of the NLRA was upheld by the United States Supreme Court in National Labor Relations Board v. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corp. in 1937. The act contributed to a dramatic surge in union membership and made labor a force to be reckoned with both politically and economically. Women benefited from this shift to unionization as well. By the end of the 1930s, 800,000 women belonged to unions, a threefold increase from 1929. The provisions of the NLRA were later expanded under the Taft-Hartley Labor Act of 1957 and the Landrum-Griffin Act of 1959.
The The National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA) was enacted by Congress in June 1933 and was one of the measures by which President Franklin D. Roosevelt sought to assist the nation’s economic recovery during the Great Depression. The passage of NIRA ushered in a unique experiment in U.S. economic history—the NIRA sanctioned, supported, and in some cases, enforced an alliance of industries. Antitrust laws were suspended, and companies were required to write industry-wide “codes of fair competition” that effectively fixed prices and wages, established production quotas, and imposed restrictions on entry of other companies into the alliances. The act further called for industrial self-regulation and declared that codes of fair competition—for the protection of consumers, competitors, and employers—were to be drafted for the various industries of the country and were to be subject to public hearings. Employees were given the right to organize and bargain collectively and could not be required, as a condition of employment, to join or refrain from joining a labor organization.
IN a lengthy and unanimous opinion, the Court seemed to demonstrate a complete unwillingness to endorse Roosevelt’s argument that the national crisis of economic depression demanded radical innovation. Later, FDR would use this Court opinion as evidence that the Court was living in the “horse and buggy” era and needed to be reformed.
As noted above the NLRB was declared Constitutional by the US Supreme court in 1937. On Feb 5 1937 FDR proposed his plan to expand the court to up to 15 members. The Court was intimitaded enough to follow the balot box and many previous decisions were reverse. The Congress was in effect nullified and the court became a in fact a Legislative body.