Organized Labor and Related Laws

Norris–La Guardia Act

The Norris–LaGuardia Act removed certain legal and judicial barriers against the activities of organized labor in the United States.

Learning Objectives

Explain the formation of the Norris-LaGuardia Act

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • The three provisions of the act include protecting workers’ rights to self-organization and liberty, removing nonviolent labor dispute jurisdiction from federal courts, and outlawing the “yellow dog” contract that prohibited a worker from joining a labor union as a term of employment.
  • The Supreme Court held that the act prohibits employers from barring the peaceful dissemination of information concerning the terms and conditions of employment by those involved in an active labor dispute, even when such dissemination occurs on employer property.
  • George William Norris was a Republican U.S. politician from Nebraska and a leader of progressive and liberal causes in Congress. Fiorello Henry LaGuardia was a Republican Mayor of New York who was elected to Congress and was able to appeal across party lines to achieve popularity.
  • Fiorello Henry LaGuardia (1882 – 1947) was Mayor of New York for three terms from 1934 to 1945 as a Republican who appealed across party lines and heavily supported President Franklin D. Roosevelt as a New Dealer. He is acclaimed as one of the greatest mayors in American history.

Key Terms

  • yellow-dog contracts: An agreement between an employer and an employee in which the employee agrees, as a condition of employment, not to be a member of a labor union. Such contracts were used in the U.S until the 1930s to prevent the formation of unions, most often by permitting employers to take legal action against union organizers.
  • injunction: A writ or process, granted by a court of equity, and, in some cases, under statutes, by a court of law, whereby a party is required to do or to refrain from doing certain acts, according to the exigency of the writ.

The Norris–LaGuardia Act (also known as the Anti- Injunction Bill) was a 1932 United States federal law that banned yellow-dog contracts, barred federal courts from issuing injunctions against nonviolent labor disputes, and created a positive right of noninterference by employers against workers joining trade unions. The common title followed from the names of the sponsors of the legislation: Senator George W. Norris of Nebraska and Representative Fiorello H. La Guardia of New York, both Republicans.

The Act stated that yellow-dog contracts were unenforceable in federal court. It also established as United States law that employees should be free to form unions without employer interference, and also withdrew from the federal courts jurisdiction relative to the issuance of injunctions in nonviolent labor disputes. No federal court can offer jurisdiction. The three provisions include protecting worker’s self-organization and liberty, removing jurisdiction from federal courts, and outlawing the “yellow dog” contract.

Section 13A of the act was fully applied by the Supreme Court of the United States in New Negro Alliance v. Sanitary Grocery Co., in which the Court held that the Act prohibits employers from barring the peaceful dissemination of information concerning the terms and conditions of employment by those involved in an active labor dispute, even when such dissemination occurs on employer property.

The Authors of the Act

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George Norris and Fiorello LaGuardia: Senator George W. Norris and Representative Fiorello H. LaGuardia were the chief sponsors of the Act.

George William Norris (1861 – 1944) was a U.S. politician from the state of Nebraska and a leader of progressive and liberal causes in Congress. He served five terms in the United States House of Representatives as a Republican from 1903 until 1913 and five terms in the United States Senate from 1913 until 1943, four terms as a Republican and the final term as an Independent.

Fiorello Henry LaGuardia (1882 – 1947) was Mayor of New York for three terms from 1934 to 1945 as a Republican. Previously he was elected to Congress in 1916 and 1918, and again from 1922 through 1930. He is often acclaimed as one of the three or four greatest mayors in American history. Only five feet tall, he was called “the Little Flower”. LaGuardia was a Republican who appealed across party lines, was very popular in New York during the 1930s. As a New Dealer, he supported President Franklin D. Roosevelt, a Democrat, and in turn Roosevelt heavily funded the city and cut off patronage from LaGuardia’s foes. La Guardia revitalized New York City and restored public faith in City Hall.

National Labor Relations Act

The National Labor Relations Act limits employers’ relations to workers who create labor unions and collectively act in support of demands.

Learning Objectives

Analyze the controversy behind the National Labor Relations Act

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • The act encourages the practice of collective bargaining by protecting workers’ freedom of association, self-organization, and designation of representatives of their own choosing.
  • The NLRA was controversial and employers campaigned to outlaw a number of union practices such as closed shops, secondary boycotts, jurisdictional strikes, mass picketing, and strikes.
  • The Taft-Hartley Act amended the National Labor Relations Act. It was seen as a means of demobilizing the labor movement by imposing limits on labor’s ability to strike and by prohibiting radicals from their leadership.
  • The Taft-Hartley Act is a United States federal law, which amended the National Labor Relations Act, that monitors the activities and power of labor unions. The Taft–Hartley Act was seen as a means of demobilizing the labor movement by imposing limits on labor’s ability to strike and by prohibiting radicals from their leadership. The Taft–Hartley Act prohibited jurisdictional strikes, wildcat strikes, solidarity or political strikes, secondary boycotts, secondary and mass picketing, closed shops, and monetary donations by unions to federal political campaigns.

Key Terms

  • National Labor Relations Act: An act to diminish the causes of labor disputes burdening or obstructing interstate and foreign commerce, to create a National Labor Relations Board, and for other purposes.
  • wildcat strikes: A strike action taken by workers without the authorization of their trade union officials. The Memphis Sanitation Strike and the Baltimore Municipal Strike of 1974 started as wildcat strikes, only to later be supported by the union.

The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) is a 1935 United States federal law that limits the means with which employers may react to workers in the private sector who create labor unions, engage in collective bargaining, and take part in strikes and other forms of concerted activity in support of their demands. It was signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

The law holds that wildcat strikes are illegal, and that workers must formally request that the National Labor Relations Board end their association with their labor union if they feel that the union is not sufficiently supportive of them before they can legally go on strike.

Key Principles of the NLRA

The key principles of the NLRA include:

  • Encouraging the practice and procedure of collective bargaining by protecting the exercise by workers of full freedom of association, self-organization, and designation of representatives of their own choosing.
  • Protecting a wide range of activities, whether a union is involved or not, in order to promote organization and collective bargaining.
  • Protecting employees as a class and expressly not on the basis of a relationship with an employer.

The law originally defined and prohibited five unfair labor practices:

  1. Interfering with, restraining, or coercing employees in their rights, including freedom of association; mutual aid or protection; self-organization; the right to form, join, or assist labor organizations; the right to bargain collectively for wages and working conditions through representatives of their own choosing; and the right to engage in other protected concerted activities with or without a union.
  2. “Dominating” or interfering with the formation or administration of any labor organization.
  3. Discriminating against employees to encourage or discourage acts of support for a labor organization.
  4. Discriminating against employees who file charges or testify.
  5. Refusing to bargain collectively with the representative of the employer’s employees.

Controversy

The American Liberty League, an organization made up of conservatives, viewed the act as a threat to freedom and engaged in a campaign of opposition in order to repeal these “socialist” efforts. This campaign continued until the NLRA was found constitutional by the Supreme Court in 1937. As time went by, employers and their allies in Congress also criticized the NLRA for its expansive definition of “employee” and for allowing supervisors and plant guards to form unions, sometimes affiliated with the unions that represented the employees whom they were supposed to supervise or police.

Many accused the NLRB of a general pro-union and anti-employer bias. In addition, employers campaigned over the years to outlaw a number of union practices such as closed shops; secondary boycotts; jurisdictional strikes; mass picketing; strikes in violation of contractual no-strike clauses; pension, health, and welfare plans sponsored by unions; and multi-employer bargaining.

The Taft-Hartley Amendment

The Taft-Hartley Amendment of 1947 is a United States federal law that monitors the activities and power of labor unions. The act was a means of demobilizing the labor movement by imposing limits on labor’s ability to strike and by prohibiting radicals from their leadership.

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Democratic Senator Robert F. Wagner: Sponsor of the National Labor Relations Act/Wagner Act.

The Taft–Hartley Act prohibited jurisdictional strikes, wildcat strikes, solidarity or political strikes, secondary boycotts, secondary and mass picketing, closed shops, and monetary donations by unions to federal political campaigns. It also required union officers to sign non-communist affidavits with the government. The act authorized the President to intervene in strikes or potential strikes that create a national emergency, a reaction to the national coal miners’ strikes called by the United Mine Workers of America in the 1940s.

The act was sponsored by Senator Robert Taft and Representative Fred A. Hartley, Jr. It became law by overriding U.S. President Harry S. Truman’s veto on June 23, 1947; labor leaders called it the “slave-labor bill,” while President Truman argued that it was a “dangerous intrusion on free speech,” and that it would “conflict with important principles of our democratic society. ”

Nevertheless, Truman would subsequently use it twelve times during his presidency. President George W. Bush invoked the law most recently in connection with the employer lockout of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union during negotiations with West Coast shipping in 2001.

Fair Labor Standards Act

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) established a national minimum wage, “time-and-a-half” for overtime in certain jobs, and etc.

Learning Objectives

Outline the application of the Fair Labor Standard Act

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • The Fair Labor Standards Act established a national minimum wage, guaranteed “time and a half” for overtime in certain jobs, and prohibited most employment of minors in “oppressive child labor”.
  • The 1947 Portal-to-Portal Act specified exactly what type of time was considered compensable work time.
  • The Fair Labor Standards Amendment included changes to overtime compensation, defined a “regular rate,” raised the minimum wage from 40 cents to 75 cents per hour and extended child labor coverage.
  • Generally, employees of a company that does at least $500,000 of business or gross sales in a year will be subject to the FLSA’s protections.
  • Several exemptions to the FLSA exist that relieve an employer from having to meet the statutory minimum wage, overtime, and record-keeping requirements. The largest exceptions apply to the so-called “white collar” exemptions that are applicable to professional, administrative and executive employees. Exemptions are narrowly construed; an employer must prove that the employees fit “plainly and unmistakeably” within the exemption’s terms.
  • The FLSA applies to “any individual employed by an employer” but not to independent contractors or volunteers because they are not considered “employees” under the FLSA. Still, an employer cannot simply exempt workers from the FLSA by calling them independent contractors, and many employers have illegally misclassified their workers as independent contractors. Courts will look at the “economic reality” of the relationship between the putative employer and the worker to determine whether the worker is, in fact, an independent contractor.

Key Terms

  • overtime: The rate of pay, usually higher, for work done outside of or in addition to regular hours.
  • independent contractor: A person working independently, under a contract; a self-employed person.
  • minimum wage: The lowest rate at which an employer can legally pay an employee; usually expressed as pay per hour.

It established a national minimum wage, guaranteed “time and a half” for overtime in certain jobs and prohibited most employment of minors in “oppressive child labor. ” Children under the age of 18 cannot do certain dangerous jobs, and children under the age of 16 cannot work. 700,000 workers were affected by the FLSA.

Amendments

The 1947 Portal-to-Portal Act specified exactly what type of time was considered compensable work time. In general, as long as an employee is engaging in activities that benefit the employer, regardless of when they’re performed, the employer has an obligation to pay the employee for his or her time. It also specified that travel to and from the work place was a normal incident of employment and shouldn’t be considered paid working time.

The full effect of the FLSA of 1938 was postponed by the wartime inflation of the 1940s, which lowered wage values to below the level specified in the act. The October 26, 1949 Fair Labor Standards Amendment included changes to overtime compensation, defined a “regular rate,” redefined the term “produced,” raised the minimum wage from 40 cents to 75 cents per hour, and extended child labor coverage. In 1955, the FLSA was amended once again to increase minimum wage, this time to $1 per hour. Subsequent amendments have continued to raise the minimum wage level according to inflation.

Practical Application

Generally, employees of a company who does at least $500,000 of business or gross sales in a year will be subject to the FLSA’s protections. Several exemptions exist that relieve an employer from having to meet the statutory minimum wage, overtime, and record-keeping requirements. The largest exceptions apply to the so-called “white collar” exemptions that are applicable to professional, administrative, and executive employees. Exemptions are narrowly construed; an employer must prove that the employees fit “plainly and unmistakeably” within the exemption’s terms.

The FLSA applies to “any individual employed by an employer” but not to independent contractors or volunteers because they are not considered “employees” under the FLSA. Still, an employer cannot simply exempt workers from the FLSA by calling them independent contractors, and many employers have illegally misclassified their workers as independent contractors. Some employers similarly mislabel employees as volunteers. Courts will look at the “economic reality” of the relationship between the putative employer and the worker to determine whether the worker is, in fact, an independent contractor.

Presuming an employee is not exempt from overtime, there are many instances in which overtime is not paid properly, including when an employee is not paid for travel time between job sites, activities before their shift starts or after it ends, and activities to prepare for work that are central to work activities. If an employee is entitled to overtime, they must be paid one and a half times the employee’s “regular rate of pay” for all hours worked over 40 in the same work week.

Labor Management Relations Act

The Labor Management Relations Act (Taft-Hartley Amendment) is a U.S federal law that monitors the activities and power of labor unions.

Learning Objectives

Examine the Taft-Hartley Act’s impact on the National Labor Relations Act

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • The National Labor Relations Act, which Congress passed in 1935, banned employer interference in workers’ decisions to join and act in concert with labor unions. The 1947 Taft-Hartley Act amended the NLRA to limit the power and activity of unions.
  • The NLRA prohibited jurisdictional strikes, wildcat strikes, solidarity or political strikes, secondary boycotts, secondary and mass picketing, closed shops, and monetary donations by unions to federal political campaigns.
  • President Harry Truman vetoed Taft-Hartley claiming it was a “dangerous intrusion on free speech,” but Congress overrode his veto. Majorities of both parties voted for the bill as well as the override.
  • President Harry Truman vetoed Taft-Hartley, but Congress overrode his veto. Majorities of both parties voted for the bill as well as the override. Organized labor nearly succeeded in pushing Congress to amend the law to increase the protections for strikers and targets of employer retaliation during the Carter and Clinton administrations, but failed on both occasions because of Republican opposition and lukewarm support for these changes from the Democratic President in office at the time.

Key Terms

  • Labor Management Relations Act: The official name of the Taft-Hartley Act.
  • wildcat strikes: A strike action taken by workers without the authorization of their trade union officials. The Memphis Sanitation Strike and the Baltimore Municipal Strike of 1974 started as wildcat strikes, only to later be supported by the union.
  • jurisdictional strike: A concerted refusal to work undertaken by a union to assert its members’ right to particular job assignments and to protest the assignment of disputed work to members of another union or to unorganized workers.

The Labor Management Relations Act, or the Taft-Hartley Act, is a United States federal law that monitors the activities and limits the power of labor unions. The act was sponsored by Senator Robert Taft and Representative Fred A. Hartley, Jr. and became law by overriding U.S. President Harry S. Truman’s veto on June 23, 1947. Labor leaders called it the “slave-labor bill,” while President Truman argued that it was a “dangerous intrusion on free speech,” and that it would “conflict with important principles of our democratic society. ” Nevertheless, Truman subsequently used it twelve times during his presidency. The Taft–Hartley Act amended the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) which Congress passed in 1935.

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Senator Robert A. Taft: Co-sponsor of the Taft-Hartley Act.

NLRA’s Purpose

  1. To promote the full flow of commerce, to prescribe the legitimate rights of both employees and employers in their relations affecting commerce.
  2. To provide orderly and peaceful procedures for preventing the interference by either with the legitimate rights of the other.
  3. To protect the rights of individual employees in their relations with labor organizations whose activities affect commerce.
  4. To define and proscribe practices on the part of labor and management which affect commerce and are inimical to the general welfare
  5. To protect the rights of the public in connection with labor disputes affecting commerce

Taft-Hartley Amendment’s Impact

The amendments enacted in Taft-Hartley added a list of prohibited actions, or unfair labor practices, on the part of unions to the NLRA, which had previously only prohibited unfair labor practices committed by employers. The Taft–Hartley Act prohibited jurisdictional strikes, wildcat strikes, solidarity or political strikes, secondary boycotts, secondary and mass picketing, closed shops, and monetary donations by unions to federal political campaigns. It also required union officers to sign non-communist affidavits with the government. Union shops were heavily restricted, and states were allowed to pass right-to-work laws that outlawed closed union shops. Furthermore, the executive branch of the Federal government could obtain legal strikebreaking injunctions if an impending or current strike imperiled the national health or safety, a test that has been interpreted broadly by the courts.

Opposition to the Act

President Harry Truman vetoed Taft-Hartley, but Congress overrode his veto. Majorities of both parties voted for the bill as well as the override. Union leaders in the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) vigorously campaigned for Truman in the 1948 election based upon a (never fulfilled) promise to repeal Taft-Hartley. Organized labor nearly succeeded in pushing Congress to amend the law to increase the protections for strikers and targets of employer retaliation during the Carter and Clinton administrations, but failed on both occasions because of Republican opposition and lukewarm support for these changes from the Democratic president in office at the time.

Landrum-Griffin Act

The Landrum-Griffin Act of 1959 is a U.S. labor law regulating labor unions’ internal affairs and officials’ relationships with employers.

Learning Objectives

Explain how the Landrum-Griffin Act affected labor unions in the US

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • During the middle and late 1950s, the labor movement was under intense Congressional scrutiny for corruption, racketeering, and other misconduct.
  • Some important provisions of the Act are as follows: unions have to hold secret elections, reviewable by the Department of Labor; union members are protected against abuses by a bill of rights; and unions must submit annual financial reports to the Department of Labor.
  • While intended largely to limit union corruption and create a more equitable power structure within the unions, the Act was not without flaws in this regard.
  • Ultimately, the act’s technical failures were exploited by both the courts and union officials—most famously the Teamsters, whose president, Jimmy Hoffa, among others, notably raided the union pension coffers for his own personal investments.

Key Terms

  • Department of Labor: The United States Department of Labor (DOL) is a Cabinet department of the United States government responsible for occupational safety, wage and hour standards, unemployment insurance benefits, re-employment services, and some economic statistics; many U.S. states also have such departments.
  • Teamsters Union: The International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) is a labor union in the United States and Canada. Formed in 1903 by the merger of several local and regional locals of teamsters, the union now represents a diverse membership of blue-collar and professional workers in both the public and private sectors.
  • Senator Griffin: Robert Paul Griffin (born November 6, 1923) was a U.S. Representative, U.S. Senator from the state of Michigan and Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court.

The Landrum-Griffin Act

The Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959 (also “LMRDA” of the “Landrum-Griffin Act”), is a United States labor law that regulates labor unions ‘ internal affairs and their officials’ relationships with employers. It was sponsored by Democrat Phil Landrum and Republican Robert P. Griffin.

History and Background

After passage of the Taft-Hartley Act, the number of union victories in NLRB-conducted elections declined. During the 12-year administration of the Wagner Act, unions won victories in over 80 percent of elections. But in that first year after passage of the Taft-Hartley Act, unions only won around 70 percent of the representation elections conducted by the agency.

During the middle and late 1950s, the labor movement was under intense Congressional scrutiny for corruption, racketeering, and other misconduct. Enacted in 1959 after revelations of corruption and undemocratic practices in the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, International Longshoremen’s Association, United Mine Workers and other unions received wide public attention, the Act required unions to hold secret elections for local union offices on a regular basis, and provided for review by the United States Department of Labor of union members’ claims of improper election activity. Organized labor opposed the act because it strengthened the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947.

Provisions

Important provisions of the law were as follows:

  • Unions had to hold secret elections, reviewable by the Department of Labor.
  • Union members are protected against abuses by a bill of rights that includes guarantees of freedom of speech and periodic secret elections of officers.
  • Bar members of the Communist Party and convicted felons from holding union office.
  • Require unions to submit annual financial reports to the DOL.
  • Declare that every union officer must act as a fiduciary in handling the assets and conducting the affairs of the union.
  • Limit the power of unions to put subordinate bodies in trusteeship, a temporary suspension of democratic processes within a union.
  • Provide certain minimum standards before a union may expel or take other disciplinary action against a member of the union.

Amendment to the National Labor Relations Act

Congress also amended the National Labor Relations Act, as part of the same piece of legislation that created the LMRDA, by tightening the Taft-Hartley Act’s prohibitions against secondary boycotts, prohibiting certain types of “hot cargo” agreements, under which an employer agreed to cease doing business with other employers, and empowering the General Counsel of the National Labor Relations Board to seek an injunction against a union that engages in recognitional picketing of an employer for more than thirty days without filing a petition for representation with the NLRB.

Consequences and Results

While intended largely to limit union corruption and create a more equitable power structure within the unions, the Act was not without flaws in this regard. Twenty years after the passage of the Act, co-sponsor Senator Robert Griffin extolled its success in writing, saying: “Today, nearly two decades after enactment, it is undeniable that the Landrum-Griffin Act has played a significant role in enabling union members to participate more freely in the affairs of their unions. On the other hand, it cannot be said that union corruption and abuses of union power have disappeared. But such conduct in the union movement is not as common as it was twenty years ago; and, in large measure, that can be credited to the existence of the Landrum-Griffin Act. ” Senator Griffin acknowledged the shortcomings, particularly with regard to the Teamsters. However, Griffin argued that these violations were contrary to the Act, placing the blame instead on the Department of Labor for failing to pursue action against the Teamsters union for its corruptions.

Ultimately, the act’s technical failures were exploited by both the courts and union officials—most famously the Teamsters, whose president, Jimmy Hoffa, among others, notably raided the union pension coffers for his own personal investments. While the Act ostensibly was created to foster democracy, the judiciary frequently interpreted it in ways to minimize internal union dissonance and labor disruption, favoring instead the stern hand of management. As law professor Alan Hyde put it: “Indeed, the courts advance democratic bargaining only when assured that such democracy will not disadvantage more fundamental policy interests, such as harmony between employers and “unions” (read union elites) or control of inflation. ”

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Republican Senator Robert P. Griffin: Co-sponsor of the Landrum-Griffin Act.