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National Labor Relations Act: Components And Improvements

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The national labor policy began during the 18th and 19th century. Entering into World War 1 the labor movement had risen up to three million members. There are several events that have led to the National Labor Relations Act. Labor relations have been around for a long time, but the policy was never put in place. “In 1778, New York journeyman printers won a wage increase through collective action.” (Fossum, 2015 p.29)

After this took place, the union movement never grew as fast as the nation. There were many factors that influenced this. Some of the reasons were due to unfavorable legal decisions, rural areas, and unskilled immigrants competing for jobs at lower wages. At the start of the 1850s national trade unions began to form. Before the Civil War, the word union stood for a certain trade or industry which began in the United States. However after the Civil War the word union began to increase around the world, without crafts or industry distinctions. This had a lot to do with the public policy issues. There was a big debate on whether or not immigration should be open. In 1866 the National Labor Union was formed. “Its goals were largely political and reformist rather than economic or immediate.” (Fossum, 2015 p.31)

The goal of the National Labor Union was to introduce the eight hour work day, establish consumer and producer collaboration, reform the currency and banking laws, limitations on immigration, and establishment of a federal department of labor. The National Labor Union was open not only to skilled trade workers, but others interested in a skilled trade that do not have one.

In 1869 the Knights of Labor was formed in Philadelphia. The members and goals of the Knights of Labor were on the same path of the United States Labor movement than the National Labors Union. City after city, the Knights of Labor would go around and recruit members. The idea was to recruit enough people where it would be self sustaining. The members of the Knights were way more determined than the National Labor Union ever was. The Knights saw the short term of capitalism and used arbitration as a tactic rather than striking. Striking was used only when needed as a calm way to show their disappointment. It took some time, but the Knights of Labor was growing. During the 19th century, the depression on labor unions had taken effect. There were several railroad strikes and the Knights had won. “In 1885, financier Jay Gould attempted to break the union by laying off its members.” With this aggressive action the union went after the Wabash Railroad and refused to handle its rolling stock on other lines, which forced Gould to stop the attack on Knights members. During this time the members were growing. Newer members joined with the intention of having the same concession Gould had given. Its members grew up to 700,000 people. New members were in for the strike and pressuring the employers to get what they wanted, but the Knights did not want that, rather study what was happening. This conflict what new members wanted and what the Knights stood for got the best of people. By 1893 the members dropped to only 75,000 people. As time went on the organization began to shrink. This was not the end of national organizations, in 1886 the American Federation of Labor was formed.

The American Federation of Labor was created in Columbus, Ohio with frustration over craft unions and mixing people who were skilled with the unskilled workers in Knights of Labor assemblies. There were 25 national labor groups representing 150,000 skilled trade workers. The members of the American Federation of Labor had to give up the authority in order to settle disputes among them. They wanted to gain more physical gains by entering into collective agreements with employers. The idea was to justify the workplace through labor contracts. At the beginning of the American Federation of Labor, Samuel Gompers became the first president. Gompers was also a member of the New York Cigarmakers. Joining as a member gave him great experience on what goes on. During his time as president he had paid close attention to the workers he represented. As president, his biggest accomplishment was his influence on the business orientation of the United States unions

During the 1870s, a financial crisis had occurred. The owners were being bold by refusing to recognize or negotiate with unions. Labor unrest had occurred in all areas in an industry. Company owners did not want unions and get government support. During this time, Immigrant Irish miners went on strike against the owners who had cut their wages below the agreed minimum. This lead to people that formed a secret organization called the Molly Maguies which were out to terrorize owners by sabotaging mines and threatening owners. In 1877 there was another incident where railroad employees took strike to protect against a cut in wages, and seizing rail property. The federal troops had to step in to retake property and ended up killing 25 people in the process. This caused widespread rioting, arson of rail property and looting of local business.

Throughout time, workers and managers had very restricted assets on their assets. Owners did not want people to form unions and willing to do whatever to stop them from happening. Many times the workers had no choice but to live in company owned housing. Workers were obligated to because it they wanted to leave their job then that also meant that they lost there place to stay as well. In the end the socialists left their unions for the Industrial Workers of the World. This caused confusion with the Industrial Workers of the World and the Western Federation of Miners. In 1906 the Western Federation of Miners came to an end. Most of the conflicts had to do with wages and hours, but the ultimate goal was to abolish the wage system. The Industrial Workers of the World would go on strike until their demands were met.

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Even though striking was the most commonly used method to get what they wanted but also to boycott. As local members would strike, the national unions insisted that union members should boycott unfair products. The Danbury Hatters is a boycott case where the union was charged with conspiracy to restrain trade in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act. The Sherman Antitrust Act is a federal law prohibiting organizations from fixing prices or a single organization from becoming and acting as a monopolist. Another case is the Bucks Stove, where Samuel Gompers was held who was an American Federation of Labor leader. By 1914 the Clayton Act was passed. The Sherman Act was an amendment to the Sherman Antitrust Act that, among other things, removed union activities as possible restraints of trade. Even though unions were removed, it was still open to debate that allowed justical interpretations that disappointed labor.

At the end of the 1920s the United States transitioned from an agricultural society to an industrial. The invention of the assembly line reduced skill requirements for employees. According to the textbook, the attempts to organize industrial unions were unsuccessful until the 1930s. (Fossum, 2015 p.42)

There were no laws that facilitated bargaining or organizing until the Railway Labor Act. The courts prohibited unions from striking, The Committee for Industrial Organization (CIO) was formed by Lewis and Phillip Murray. In order to form the committee, Lewis and Phillip had to meet with the leaders of many unions. Some being Mine workers, textile workers, and refining workers. Organizing the industrial workforce was

Congress enacted the NLRA, also known as the Wagner Act, to protect the employee’s rights, to encourage employees of collective bargaining, and to restrict certain private sectors and management practices. This act can harm the general welfare of workers, businesses, and the overall U.S. economy. The Wagner Act established the NLRB (National Labor Relations Board), the boards major duties were to determine what union was the employees’ choice to represent them. Another major duty was to hear and rule against alleged unfair labor practices. Overall, the Wagner Act states that the union that represents the employee would represent all in the unit in bargaining over issues of wages, hours, and conditions of employment. The NLRA did not apply to every employee or employer.

Major Components

The National Labor Relations Act consists of several major components. The act promises to protect the rights of employees. The act was designed to provide people with collective bargaining. This allows people to collaborate with others, respect the people you are working with, and gain other interpersonal communication skills. It gave commercialized businesses the ability to conduct business without interruption from strikes and protect the business, the economy and workers. According to the balance careers, the wagner act prohibits five unfair labor practices. The first one that is mentioned is interfering with workers rights. This is talking about the working conditions and employee pay. The second point mentioned is the controlling or interfering with the administration of a labor organization. Organizations are set to achieve something or to get something done without one disrupting or stopping it. Discrimination is another point that the National Labor Relations Act protects. This has to do with discouraging someone or even people who file charges or evidence under the Wagner Act. The final thing that is mentioned is refusing to bargain collectively with employees. According to, the National Labor Relations Act grants employees the right to form a union, engage in protected, concerted activities to address or improve working conditions.


The National Labor Relations Act set regulations to manage and regulate the rights of the employees and employers. It has made things easier for the people to not have to worry. It has created a peaceful situation by amending the workers right and allow collective bargaining with federal workers. It has created and developed workers rights. It has given people the right to bargain and provide a secure income for all workers. Overall the National Labor Relations Act has done it all, but there is a few things that could be improved. The Emory Law Journal expresses that the National Labor Relations Act has failed to express the concerns with command and not expressed by making them goals. The Emory Law Journal expresses it as a living reality. This would help to make these commands into national labor policies, as this is what the National Labor Relations Board was supposed to do. The board was probably relying on the courts to get feedback, but never happened. On a union aspect, the employers have the opportunity and ability to make a case against unions to make a case to speak to employees.


When the National Labor Relations Act was just forming, then unions should have disbanded. The unions did not have regulations in governing these unions. The pay rate was not well established and the amount of work they had to do was insane. There was no ethical values or norms in the way organizations were ran. The National Labor Relations Act was missing all of the guidance to help these companies in these issues. Today, unionization has helped unions to become more successful. Employees have better pay with other benefits. As long as the union is willing to give in a little and work with their employees then unions will continue to improve. Unions might not necessarily expand but improve to find common ground.

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National Labor Relations Act: Components And Improvements. (2022, February 17). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 1, 2023, from
“National Labor Relations Act: Components And Improvements.” Edubirdie, 17 Feb. 2022,
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