National Labor Relations Act

By Roosevelt Institute |


What is the National Labor Relations Act?

The National Labor Relations Act, also known as the Wagner Act, was passed in 1935 as part of FDR’s “Second New Deal.” It banned unfair workplace practices in the private sector, prohibited employers from interfering with their workers’ attempts to form unions, and established the National Labor Relations Board to enforce the law.

What’s the significance?

The NLRA came at a time of great unrest among the labor movement and offered the first official recognition and support for the right to organize. By encouraging the formation of labor unions, it helped workers to seek fair compensation, improved safety standards, sensible work schedules, and other advancements that were essential to the growth of the American middle class.

Today, the National Labor Relations Board continues to serve as a watchdog for workers’ rights and a check on workplace abuses.

Who’s talking about it?

Tom Ferguson looked back on the relationship between the NLRA and Social Security… John B. Judis recounted conservative efforts to weaken the NLRB since the 1980s… Kevin Drum considered the politics of appointing NLRB members… Dylan Matthews noted the importance of allowing regulatory agencies like the NLRB to enforce the law… In the wake of a coal mine disaster, Leo Hindery, Jr. urged President Obama to fight for workers like FDR did… Kimberly Freeman Brown commemorated the 75th anniversary of the NLRA with a call for updated labor laws… Michael J. Wilson noted that the NLRA is so weakened that it barely wields real power anymore.

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