Federal Protection of Labor

Date01 November 1942
Published date01 November 1942
Subject MatterArticles
Federal Protection of Labor
THE decade ending in 1942 has been tion. The great contribution to indus-
a historic period in which labor or-
trial labor stability of the past ten years
ganizations have been set up in rapidly
was the passage by Congress and valida-
increasing numbers and given security
tion by the courts of a law affording
in our society. A greatly expanded la-
effective protection to labor’s right to
bor movement has succeeded a restricted
unionism the existence of a large part
Problems of industrial relations were
of which was periled by employer oppo-
not without impact upon Federal and
sition and slight legal protection. The
state government before 1932. Com-
increase in union membership from less
missions were intermittently appointed
than three millions in 1933 1 to about
to deal with strikes or other dramatic
eleven millions in 1941 2 . graphs a basic
crises in the field of labor relations. At-
change whose real significance must be
tempts were made to protect rights to
looked for at the bargaining table, in the
collective bargaining in industry; these
stabilization of competitive wage rates
as often died in hostile courts.
and working conditions, and, above all,
Adair v. United States 4 a provision of
in the minimization of industrial strife,
the Erdman Act of 1898 5 applicable to
unrest, and uncertainty during the criti-
interstate railroads, which made it a
cal period of wartime readjustment.3
crime for an employer to discharge an
Active labor leadership and economic
employee for belonging to a labor union,
necessity are essential to the develop-
was declared unconstitutional by the
ment of a strong labor movement.
Supreme Court. Again, in Coppage v.
There have been many periods in our
Kansas 6 she Supreme Court declared
past industrial history when both lead-
unconstitutional a state anti-yellow-dog
ership and economic necessity were
statute. In Truax v. Corrigan 7 a state
present to encourage the growth of
statute denying injunctive relief against
strong unions; yet in every decade ex-
peaceful group picketing was struck
cept the past one, the urge toward col-
down by the Supreme Court. All the
lective bargaining has been discouraged
while, the antitrust laws, despite the
and thwarted for lack of legal protec-
Clayton Act, were judicially applied to
impose ever tightening restrictions on
Leo Wolman, Ebb and Flow in Trade
right to strike, picket, and boy-
(National Bureau of Economic Re-
search, 1936), p. 16.
2 Labor Information Bulletin, Bureau of La-
The exigencies of World War I af-
bor Statistics, U. S. Department of Labor,
June 1942, p. 1.
4 208 U. S. 161 (1908).
In 1917 there were 4,450 strikes involv-
5 30 Stat. 428.
ing 1,220,000 workers. In 1918 there were
236 U. S. 1 (1915).
3,353 strikes involving 1,240,000 workers. In
7 257 U. S. 312 (1921).
1919, 3,630 strikes involved 4,160,000 workers.
Coronado Coal Co. v. United Mine Work-
Strikes in Defense Industries, S. Doc. 52, 77th
ers, 268 U. S. 295; Bedford Cut Stone Co. v.
Cong., 1st sess., chap. 8, p. 196. By contrast,
Journeymen Stone Cutters Assn., 274 U. S. 37;
since Pearl Harbor there have been no author-
Loewe v. Lawlor, 208 U. S. 274; Duplex Print-
ized strikes and an average of 6
to 8
ing Press Co. v. Deering, 254 U. S. 443. See
1 per cent loss of man days due to strikes in
also Hitchman Coal Co. v. Mitchell, 245 U. S.
war industries.
National War Labor Board
229, and American Steel Foundries v. Tri-City
Release B97, June 13, 1942.
Central Trades Council, 257 U. S. 184.

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forded opportunity for the Federal Gov-
addition a number of contemporaneous
ernment to apply unhindered to indus-
NRA boards were created with juris-
trial relations a policy based upon free
diction over particular industries, such
organization of employees 9 and collec-
as coal, petroleum, textiles, and news-
tive bargaining. Only in the railroad
papers.13 In 1934 amendments to the
industry, typically interstate and scene
Railway Labor Act of 1926 were passed 14
of many crucial conflicts, did the Su-
which int.er alia imposed an obligation
preme Court permit the establishment
upon employers to bargain collectively
of a mediation system grounded upon
and forbade employers to maintain
freedom of workers to form and join
company-dominated unions.
unions of their own choosing. In 1930
All this, however, supplied little more
the Supreme Court sustained the valid-
than empirical background to the most
ity of the Railway Labor Act of 1926.10
significant piece of labor legislation
passed in a modern democracy-the Na-
tional Labor Relations Act/5 which
The depression of 1929 gave new im-
went into effect on July 5, 1935.
petus to attempts by the Federal Gov-
The ghost of unconstitutionality,
ernment to evolve a democratic labor
which still haunted the house of labor, 16
policy. The harbinger was the Norris-
was laid low on April 12, 1937, when
LaGuardia Act passed in 1932,11 which
the National Labor Relations Act was
sought to allay the evils of the labor
sustained by the Supreme Court in five
injunction. When the National Indus-
epoch-making decisions. 17
To those
trial Recovery Act was passed in 1933,12
who had bitterly challenged the validity
as a measure for economic rehabilita-
of the act, the Court answered that pro-
tion, Section 7 (a) of that act was hailed
hibition of interference with rights of
as labor’s Magna Charta. It provided
self-organization, &dquo;instead of being an
in substance that every NRA code and
invasion of the constitutional right of
agreement should declare that employ-
either [employer or employee] was
ees should have the right to organize
based on the recognition of the rights
and bargain collectively through repre-
of both.&dquo; 18
sentatives of their own choosing and
Discussions of the work of the boards
should be free therein from interference,
may be found in Twentieth Century Fund,
restraint or coercion of employers and
Labor and the Government (1935); Lorwin
from discrimination in employment.
and Wubnig, Labor Relations Boards, the
The National Labor Board on August
Brookings Institution (1935).
48 Stat.
5, 1933, and its
1185, 45 U. S. C. 266, Secs. 151-
successor, the (old)
National Labor Relations Board on
49 Stat. 449, 29 U. S. C. 47, Secs. 151 ff.
June 19, 1934, were established to ad-
On May 27, 1935, the NRA was de-
minister and enforce Section 7 (a) . In
clared unconstitutional; Schechter Corp. v.
United States, 295 U. S. 495. On May 18,
9 See Gordon S. Watkins, Labor Problems
1936, The Bituminous Coal Act of 1935, con-
and Labor Administration During the World
taining similar labor relations provisions, had
War, University of Illinois Studies in the So-
shared the same fate; Carter v. Carter Coal
cial Sciences, Vol. VIII, No. 3 ; National War
Co., 298 U. S. 238.
Labor Board, U. S. Department of Labor,
Jones & Laughlin Steel Corp., 301 U. S. 1;
Bureau of Labor Statistics, Bull. 287, chap. III.
Fruehauf Trailer Co., 301 U. S. 49; Friedman-
44 Stat. 577, pt. 2, Texas & New Orleans
Harry Marks Clothing Co., 301 U. S. 58; As-
Railroad Co. v. Brotherhood of Railway and
sociated Press, 301 U. S. 103; Washington, Vir-
Steamship Clerks, 281 U. S. 548.
ginia & Maryland Coach Co., 301 U. S. 142.
11 47 Stat. 70-73, 29 U. S. C. Secs. 101-15.
18 Jones & Laughlin case, supra, note 17, at
48 Stat. 195, 15 U. S. C. 703.
p. 34.

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interstate shipments are involved
Agricultural laborers are expressly ex-
The workers benefiting from the Fed-
cluded from the benefits of the NLRA.34
eral legislation are all those engaged in
However, packing employees working in
industries encompassed within the Fed-
the sheds of a fruit-growing associa-
eral regulative power. Those engaged
tion 35 and lettuce-packing workers 36
in railroad 19 and air transportation...

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