The Wagner Act, or the National Labor Relations Act, was a New Deal reform passed by President Franklin Roosevelt on July 5, 1935. It was instrumental in preventing employers from interfering with workers’ unions and protests in the private sector. The act established the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to protect the rights of workers to organize, bargain collectively, and strike.
What’s the significance?
The Wagner Act is arguably the most important piece of legislation to date protecting workers’ and unions’ rights. It involved the federal government in this protection and in arbitrating employer-employee disputes, a key step in preventing unjust treatment of workers.
Its key principles include encouraging collective bargaining and protecting the exercise of freedom of association. It also definied and prohibited five unfair labor practices by employers, including interfering with, restraining, or coercing employees against their rights; interfering with the formation of a labor organization; discriminating against employees to encourage or discourage forming a union; discriminating against employees who file charges or testify; and refusing to bargain collectively with the employees’ representative.
Who’s talking about it?
Roosevelt Institute Fellow Dorian Warren describes what a modern-day Wagner Act would look like…Roosevelt Institute David Woolner argues that FDR’s championing of labor rights also helped expand the economy…In defending the importance of individuals’ right to work and to unionize and bargain in order to obtain fair wages and conditions, Brian Farmer notes the importance of the Wagner Act in setting this precedent back in 1935…Robert Reich explains the importance of the act, among other New Deal reforms, in giving economic power back to the middle class…Sol Sanders speculates whether despite past government support, unions are currently on the downfall… Brigid O’Farrell reflects on Eleanor Roosevelt’s involvement in passing the reforms so key to American workers.