National Labor Relations Act (Wagner Act 1935)
The National Labor Relations Act (Wagner Act 1935) was implemented in 1935. This act gave employees and organizations the right to engage in protective activity and to gain union representation. Prior to implementing the NLRA, the individual states had the responsibility of regulating Labor Law. Prior to the implementation of the NLRA, states were establishing policies and laws that were pro business. The unions were organizing and voting for recognition, but the courts did not force the employers to the bargaining table. The NLRA unified the Labor Laws under Federal Jurisdiction and helped to return some power back to the employee. The Wagner Act established a court called the National Labor Relations Board. The sole duty of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) was to enforce the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).
The NLRA grants employees the right to engage in “concerted activity,” free from employer interference, restraint, and coercion. The NLRA gives employees the right to form a union. The act establishes the guidelines and criteria for establishing union representation. This right includes “the right to talk with union organizers and supporters, socialize with union organizers, attend union meetings, and to become union members. The employees have the right to discuss the pros and cons of union representation amongst themselves. They can solicit authorization cards, distribute literature, serve on a union committee, and wear union gear. They are allowed to support the union position by passing out petitions, through work stoppage, picketing and hand billing, contributing money, and speaking to other employees about the union.
When employees exercise their rights under the N.L.R.A., the employer cannot interfere with this activity. They cannot discriminate against them in hiring, firing, and terms of employment, because of their activity. The N.L.R.A. prohibits employers from threatening the employees with firing, loss of benefits, discipline, and reduction of hours or plant shut down, as a result of union activities. During the election process the NLRA regulates union and employer activities.
The employees’ rights are not absolute. They cannot participate in illegal activity and they cannot interfere with legitimate employer interest. The employee is forbidden to participate in acts of vandalism at the employer’s worksite’ during a picket or strike.
The employer does not have the right to question employees about union activities or whether or not they support the union activities. The employer will violate the N.L.R.A. if they are caught using spies or workers to report the status of the union organizing campaign. The employer cannot bribe the employee with rewards or promises during the election process. Some of the known tactics that have been declared illegal under the N.L.R.A include bribery with pay raises, promotions and advancement if an employee votes down a union certification
The employee has the right to discuss union issues (solicitation) and to hand out leaflets (distribution) supporting the union. The employer has the right to ensure that productivity at the workplace does not decrease as a result of distribution and soliciting. To accommodate the employer, there are certain rules and guidelines that can be implemented. The NLRB prohibits solicitation and distribution during the working hours. It has been determined by the NLRB that working hours only represent the hours that an employee is getting paid. The proper times for employees to discuss union issues are during break, lunch periods, and prior to and after the shift or work. The only exception is for retail or hospitals. The retail business can halt talks on the retail floor. The hospitals can restrict union discussions from immediate patient care areas.
This rule must be uniformly enforced. If it is found that an employer allowed the sale of chances for a non-profit organization, but did not allow union discussion, then the employer has violated the law. The employer has the right to a fair days work for a fair days pay. However, they do not have the right to allow certain solicitations that cause work stoppage, while prohibiting union discussion. The rules governing solicitation and distribution only apply to employees.
The NLRA permits the employer to regulate the distribution of literature. The justification for this allowance is based on the premise that the distribution of literature can lead to liter, which can lead to hazardous conditions in the work area. The law does allow for the distribution of leaflets in non-work areas that include but are not limited to cafeterias, locker rooms and break rooms.
The NLRA prohibits an employer from taking adverse actions against an employee. Employers that interfere with the ability of employees to exercise their rights at the workplace violate the law. The employer cannot fire, demote, lay off, refuse to hire, and deny a raise to an employee that participated in a protected activity. The protection that is granted under this law does not apply to employees who are being disciplined or fired for being tardy, absent, poor performance and insubordination provided that the employees that did not support the union are being treated the same.
During the protected activity the NLRA prohibits the union from coercing the employees. The most common violations of unlawful conduct by a union include: violence and threats against employees, vandalism to the employers property, mass picketing at the employers premise, and antagonizing and threatening an employee who is a strike breaker. The employer has the right to refuse entry on to the premise by representatives from the union who are not employed by the company.
The employer and unions can campaign for support, but it is the employee that has the freedom of choice. The employees have the right to pick a union to represent them, change the union that represents them, and change the leadership of the union. The N.L.R.A. also guarantees employees the right to refrain form participation in both the union and the employer campaign.
When a case is presented to the National Labor relation’s board they will ask the following questions to determine if an employer violated the employee’s rights under protective activity.
· Did the employer know that the employee engaged in union activities?
· Has the employer made statements complaining about the rights that are guaranteed workers under the NLRA?
· Has the employee been treated any differently than the workers who did not participate in the activities?
· Are there a relationship between the time frame that the disciplinary actions occurred and the union activity?
· Was the employer’s action a justified response to the offense that occurred?
· Has the employer given conflicting reasons for the disciplinary action?
If it is found that an employer violated this act than a hearing will be
The New Deal (National Labor Relations Act) also established a board that would administer the NLRA. This centralized the decision process to one administration and took the power away from the individual states. If businesses or unions violated the NLRA, the newly established NLRB would determine what violations occurred. The NLRB would essentially administer the unfair labor practice and representation cases established by the new statute. In 1959 the NLRA act name was changed to the LMRA to reflect the changes implemented by the Taft Hartley Act and the Landrum Griffin Act.
The National Relations Board is located in Washington and consists of five members. The members of the board serve for five-year terms. They are appointed by the President and must be approved by the Senate. The normal cases are heard by three board members, but can be extended to all five, if the violations are of the extreme nature. The LMRA also created the position of General Council. This person is appointed by the President and must be approved by the Senate. The term for this position is four years. In unfair labor practice cases the General Council (prosecutor) determines if a violation has been committed and the NLRB (Judges) will hear and determine the outcome of a case. If a violation of Section 9 election procedures occurs, the NLRB is the only body that will hear the case
Due to the amount of cases and the extreme workload, the NLRB has established several regions to assist in the decision making process. The NLRB appoints the Regional Director. The Regional Director is the local representative for the General Council for processing unfair labor practices and can render decisions in representation cases under section 9.
The NLRA and the implementation of the NLRB were the greatest achievements by the labor movement to date. This set of laws, along with the creation of a board to enforce them, put the worker on level field with employers. The NLRA gave employees and organizations the right to engage in protective activity and to gain union representation. Since its implementation in 1935, the business and political foes have created laws to cut back on the advantages that the working person gained from the NLRA. The Landrum Griffin Act, Taft Hartley Act, and the Denver Decision were all executed in order to diminish the powers that were given, in the NLRA.