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 Drilling Department, National Cash Register Company, Dayton, Ohio, 1902

Pre-Wagner Act Labor Relations

The struggle of workers in 18th and 19th Century America to improve their working conditions led to the beginnings of a national labor policy. When the United States entered World War I in 1917, the labor movement had grown to 3 million members. President Woodrow Wilson took steps to promote labor peace by creating a tri-partite War Labor Board in 1918. Although the War Labor Board did not have enforcement powers, labor and management agreed to refrain from strikes or lockouts as a result of its mediating efforts. The War Labor Board recognized the "right to organize in trade unions and to bargain collectively through chosen representatives."

 City Mission, Dubuque Iowa, April 1930

The Labor-Management truce during World War I evaporated after the armistice in 1918. The following year, unions lost major strikes in the steel, coal, and rail industries. Union membership dropped from more than five million members in 1920 to three million members in 1933ójust 300,000 more than in 1914. Hostility between labor and management ran high in the 1920s. It was during this period that the use of the labor injunction to stop strikes reached its peak. Passage of the Railway Labor Act in 1926, stressing the importance of collective bargaining to minimize strikes and lockouts on railways, was a breakthrough in paving the way for a national labor policy.

In the depths of the Great Depression, during the last year of the Hoover Administration in 1932, Congress passed the Norris-LaGuardia Act, which curbed the power of the courts to issue injunctions or restraining orders against strikes, absent violence or fraud. Congress declared the policy of the United States to be that workers were free to join unions and bargain collectively.

 Police Attacking Striking Textile Workers, Passaic, N.J., 1926

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal Administration committed the nation to an unprecedented program of governmentindustry cooperation, typified by the National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933 (NIRA). NIRA suspended the antitrust laws to permit employers within a single industry to form trade associations that set production quotas or fixed prices under "Codes of Fair Competition." In return, employers agreed that the Codes would establish minimum wages, maximum hours, and other conditions of employment. To encourage participation by unions, Section 7 of NIRA guaranteed employees "the right to organize and bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing" without employer interference. Additionally, it provided that employers should not require employees to join company unions or prohibit them from joining unions of their own choice.

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