10/4/08

U.S. law favors labor organizing

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Disinterested workers to be forced into unions under President Obama

This letter is in response to Ms. Jessica Stromp’s letter to the editor concerning the Employee Free Choice Act. In her letter, she states in response to Mr. Michael Day’s letter that the reason for the Labor Relations Act of 1935 was union worker intimidation. In order for your readers to have a balanced view of the National Labor Relations Act of 1935, I submit the following:

Congress enacted the National Labor Relations Act (or Wagner Act) in 1935. It is a United States federal law to protect the rights of employees and employers.

The Wagner-Connery Act established a federal agency, the National Labor Relations Board, to investigate and decide charges of unfair labor practices and to conduct elections in which workers would have the opportunity to decide whether they wanted to be represented by a union.

In the first few years of the Wagner Act, many employers refused to recognize it as law.

The U.S. Supreme Court had already struck down other statutes passed during the New Deal on the grounds that Congress did not have the constitutional authority to enact them. Most of the initial appellate court decisions reached the same conclusion. They found the act unconstitutional and therefore unenforceable.

Many unions did not bother to use the NLRB in the first few years of its passage. They chose instead to strike for recognition, using methods such as the sit-down strike used by the United Auto Workers in the Flint Sit-Down Strike in the mid-1930s.

The Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the statute in 1937 in National Labor Relations Board v. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corp. The Supreme Court upheld the NLRB’s interpretation of the Wagner Act. However, the court imposed two major limitations on it.

The court held in NLRB v. Mackay Radio & Telegraph Co., in 1938, that while employers could not fire workers for going out on strike, they could permanently replace them. The court later held in National Labor Relations Board v. Virginia Electric & Power Co. that the First Amendment to the Constitution barred the NLRB from making it illegal for employers to express their opposition to unionism, so long as they did not try to coerce or threaten workers with reprisals for exercising their rights.

Opponents of the Wagner Act introduced bills to amend or repeal the law after its passage. All of them failed or were vetoed until the passage of the Taft-Hartley amendments in 1947 for such things as treble damage awards and sight checks of union authorization cards for a union to be certified as the collective bargaining representative.

I hope the above provides some history of the NLRA for your readers.

Paul Aubert
systems integration technician
Prairieville

(2theadvocate.com)

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