Major Union Legislation in the United States
The attitude of government towards unions has shifted throughout history as have citizens attitudes in general.
Throughout the mid eighteen hundreds and into the industrial revolution America embraced a laissez faire approach as it hurtled towards industrialism. Even in the progressive era from 1900 to 1917 unions received scant little support with the notable exception of the Sherman antitrust act in 1914. It was almost as if unions were rebels against a very conservative society. America at this time was VERY conservative and unions represented a change in the status quo. Unions also, for many Americans, represented a step towards Communism and when the Red Scare arose in reaction to the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 many Americans saw Unions as the vehicle for socialist and communist ideology. The reality is that they where not entirely wrong as such union organizers as Eugene V. Debs were, in fact, socialists.
Times, as Dylan said, they are a changing and change they did. When the depression hit, Roosevelt’s New Deal began to revolutionize the way Americans looked at workers. The depression made us realize that workers were a part of the industrial and economic landscape. Workers, we finally recognized, were at the heart of the economy because workers spend. Government also changed its tune as we moved from a laissez faire philosophy that believed in supply side (trickle down) economics to an activist government that believed in Keynesian (pump priming) economics. During this pro union
era notable legislation, described below was passed that ever increased the power of unions.
As World War II and the depression ended unions had gained a strong foothold in America. We emerged from the war as the undisputed world military and economic power and if we were to remain as such we would need to shift from a wart time to a post war economy. This is a difficult transition and recognizing that unions had perhaps gained an upper hand that might stifle this transition, government moved to limit the power of unions and perhaps balance things out a little. Laws such as the Taft Hartley Act, described below, achieved this balance.
Where do we stand today… history will be the judge but many observers feel that as the role and importance of unions in a post industrial economy lessens, that the government has adopted an anti union stance. Again, this is merely supposition and is subject to much debate.
Anti Union Legislation – Before 1933
The anti union attitude of government before the New Deal was seen in the way the federal courts interpreted existing law and in the use of federal troops or state militia during a strike. Management would often seek injunctions from the court. An injunction is a court order barring a specific activity. In this case the injunctions would be against the formation of unions or against a strike or other union activity. In order to grant an injunction the court must base its decision on existing law. In this case the law referred to was the Sherman Antitrust Act.
The Sherman Antitrust Act a basic federal enactment regulating the operations of corporate trusts declared illegal “every contract, combination in the form of trust or otherwise, or conspiracy, in restraint of trade or commerce.” In interpreting the Sherman Act the courts decided that unions represented a “restraint of trade and thus granted injunctions against them in violation of the Sherman Act.
In 1914 Congress passed the Clayton Anti Trust Act. This act was designed to strengthen the anti trust provisions of the Sherman Act but had a clause in it that stated that Unions were not a conspiracy in restraint of trade. Samuel Gompers, founder of the AFL referred to the Clayton Act as the “Magna Carta” of union legislation.
In 1932 the Norris-La Guardia Anti-Injunction Act was passed severely limiting the power to issue injunctions in labor
disputes. The passage of the Norris-La Guardia Act signaled the beginning of a shift away from the governments anti union
Pro Union Legislation – 1933 – 1939
The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) a federal law enacted by the United States Congress in July 1935 to govern the labor-management relation is generally known as the Wagner Act, after Senator Robert R. Wagner of New York.
The general objective of the act to guarantee to employees “the right to self-organization, to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing, and to engage in concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid and protection.” The NLRA establishes procedures for the
selection of a labor organization to represent a unit of employees in collective bargaining. The act prohibits employers from interfering with this selection. The NLRA requires the employer to bargain with the appointed representative of its employees. It does not require either side to agree to a proposal or make concessions but does that each side bargain in good faith. Proposals which would violate the NLRA or other laws may not be the subject matter of collective
bargaining. The NLRA also establishes regulations on what tactics (e.g. strikes, lockouts, picketing) a side in negotiations may employ to further their bargaining objectives.
To safeguard these rights the act created the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which, among other powers, has the authority to prevent employer from engaging in certain specified unfair labor practices. Examples of such practices are acts of interference, restraint, or coercion upon employees with respect to their right to organize and bargain collectively; domination of or interference with the formation or administration of any labor organization, or the contribution of financial or other support thereto; discrimination in regard to hiring or dismissal of employees or to any term or condition of employment, in order to encourage or discourage membership in any labor organization; discrimination against any employee for filing charges or giving testimony under the provisions of the act; and refusal to bargain collectively with the representative chosen by a majority of employees in a bargaining unit deemed appropriate by the NLRB.
Before the enactment of the NLRA, the federal government had refrained almost entirely from supporting collective
bargaining over wages and working conditions and from facilitating the growth of trade unions. The new law, which was proposed and enacted with the firm support of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, marked a significant reversal of this attitude. First the American Federation of Labor and later the Congress of Industrial Organizations took advantage of governmental encouragement by carrying out nationwide organizational campaigns. Largely as a result of such efforts, the number of organized workers rose from about 3.5 million in 1935 to about 15 million in 1947.
The Wages and Hours Act passed in 1938 established a minimum wage of 25 cents per hour and a maximum workweek of 40 hours for industrial workers. Workers were to receive overtime at a rate of time and a half. Child labor was restricted. This federal law applied only to businesses engaged in interstate trade but soon most states had passed similar laws.
The Social Security Act passed in 1935 also provided protection to workers. There were three phases to the program: (1) benefits to cover the risks of old age, death, dependency of children, disability and blindness; (2) medical care for the aged (added in 1965); and (3) unemployment benefits.
Legislation that Balanced Unions and Management – 1946 – Present
In 1947 Congress passed the Taft-Hartley Act limiting the actions of Unions and balancing the tend begun by the Wagner Act. The Taft-Hartley act amended (changed by adding to) the Wagner Act and set up standards of conduct for both unions and management. These were the major provisions of the act:
a. Unions were required to bargain with employers fairly and in good faith just as the Wagner Act had decreed that management must bargain similarly with unions.
b. Unions were required to give notice before striking. If a strike threatened the national interest the President could request and injunction to delay the strike for 80 days.
c. Unfair labor practices by unions were listed and prohibited. These included the refusal to bargain in good faith, attempting to cause an employer to discriminate against an employee because of threat employees refusal to join a union, charging excessive initiation fees and union dues and encouraging employees to take a job related action for the specific purpose of achieving objectives deemed unfair to employers.
d. Unions could be sued and held legally responsible for the actions of their members.
e. Secondary boycotts, when a union agrees not to do business or handle products from non union shops or from shops currently involved in a job action where prohibited.
f. Financial contributions to political campaigns were forbidden.
g. The closed shop, which required that all employees be union members before they could be hired, was declared illegal. The union shop, which required that all employees become union members after a certain period of time on the job was allowed. The law also set forth provisions that enabled workers to refuse to join the union. In this case a agency shop is established. This is a union shop where some workers pay an agency fee to the union that still bargains collectively on their behalf but they do not contribute that portion of dues that might have gone to poltical activities.
h. The checkoff of union dues without the written consent of employees; contributions by employers to union
health and welfare funds not under joint labor-management administration was prohibited.
I. It required labor unions desiring to use the facilities of the NLRB to file certain organizational and financial data with the NLRB, and it required the officers of such unions to file affidavits certifying that they are not members of the Communist party.
j. It emphasized the right of all employees not to join a union and not to participate in collective action.
The Landrum-Griffin Act was passed in 1949 as the result of a Senate investigation into the relationship of unions and organized crime. Racketeering (Organized illegal activity such as bootlegging or extorting money by threat or violence from legitimate businessmen; a dishonest scheme or trick, illegally attempting to control businesses by threat of force or violence.) And undemocratic practices in unions were uncovered. This law was designed to protect union members rights by curbing racketeering and eliminating other corrupt practices such as stealing union controlled pension plans.
Landmark legislation involving public employees exists in New York State. Due to the potentially severe impacts to citizens of a halt in essential government service provision, New York State law has long prohibited public sector strike. From 1947 to 1967, employees of all levels of government in New York State were governed by the Condon-Wadlin Act which prohibited public sector strikes and assessed harsh penalties to strikers. The law made public employee unions illegal and strictly forbade striking. In fact, striking workers were fired, fined and often jailed. This strategy did not, however, prevent such serious strikes as the 1966 New York City transit worker strike which effectively crippled the city and cost an estimated $100 million per day. By the late 1960s, a number of public sector employee strikes in the State pushed the government to shift from a penalty-based system to a prevention-based one.
The new law passed in 1967, the Taylor Law, permits union organizing, and provides a system within which to resolve labor-management conflict short of striking. Public employers are required to recognize and negotiate in good faith with
the union representatives of a bargaining unit, thus public employee unions were legally recognized. The law establishes certain mandatory bargaining issues, which public employers must negotiate with union representation. Broadly stated, mandatory bargaining issues are terms and conditions of employment.
The Public Employees Relations Board(PERB) interprets which issues are terms and conditions of employment under
the law. PERB is also mandated to facilitate union recognition and labor-management contract negotiations, and to arbitrate any unresolved disputes. PERB is thus similar to the NLRB but for public employees within New York State.
The Taylor law does, however, outlaw striking by public employees. Public employees who engage in a strike are
fined two days pay for every day they are out. Authorizing unions are also subject to the loss of the dues payoff provision and the incarceration of union leaders as well a fines.
Most Recent Trends in Union Management Relations
Recently there has been an anti union trend. Many states bar public employees from striking, and there has been a rash of what might be called “union busting,” or the attempt to break and destroy a particular union. The single best example of union busting is President Ronald Reagan’s firing of the members of PATCO, an air traffic controllers union. PATCO members had been in conflict with management for several years. Since PATCO was a national union they had to deal with several different management structures in states throughout the country. When PATCO struck President Reagan feeling that the public safety was in danger, fired the striking workers and replaced them with military personnel.
A Look at Major Labor Legislation over the Last Decade
The last decade has seen a number of significant pieces of labor legislation passed at both the federal and state levels. These laws have addressed a wide range of issues, including pay equity, workplace safety, and union rights.
One of the most important pieces of labor legislation passed in the last decade is the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009. This law overturned a Supreme Court decision that made it difficult for employees to sue for pay discrimination. The law allows employees to file pay discrimination lawsuits within 180 days of their most recent paycheck, even if the discriminatory pay practices began earlier.
Another important piece of labor legislation passed in the last decade is the Affordable Care Act of 2010. This law requires most employers to provide health insurance to their employees. The law also prohibits insurance companies from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions. The Affordable Care Act has expanded health insurance coverage to millions of Americans, including many workers and their families.
In addition to the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and the Affordable Care Act, other significant pieces of labor legislation passed in the last decade include:
- The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010: This law created the Financial Stability Oversight Council, which is responsible for identifying and responding to systemic risks in the financial system. The law also created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which is responsible for protecting consumers from unfair and deceptive practices by financial institutions.
- The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993: This law guarantees most employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year for certain family and medical reasons, such as the birth or adoption of a child, or to care for a sick family member.
- The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990: This law prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in all areas of public life, including employment.
- The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970: This law sets standards for workplace safety and health. The law is enforced by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
- The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938: This law sets the minimum wage, overtime pay requirements, and child labor standards.
- The National Labor Relations Act of 1935: This law guarantees workers the right to organize unions and bargain collectively with their employers.
- The Social Security Act of 1935: This law provides retirement benefits, disability benefits, and survivor benefits to workers and their families.
- The Wagner-Peyser Act of 1933: This law created the United States Employment Service, which provides employment services to job seekers and employers.
- The Davis-Bacon Act of 1931: This law requires employers working on federal government contracts to pay their employees at least the prevailing wage for the area.
These are just a few of the many pieces of labor legislation that have been passed in the last decade. These laws have had a significant impact on the lives of millions of American workers.
Impact of Major Labor Legislation on American Workers
The major labor legislation passed in the last decade has had a number of positive impacts on American workers. For example, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act has made it easier for employees to sue for pay discrimination. The Affordable Care Act has expanded health insurance coverage to millions of Americans, including many workers and their families. The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act has created new protections for consumers, including workers. The Family and Medical Leave Act has given workers more flexibility to balance work and family life. The Americans with Disabilities Act has made it easier for people with disabilities to find and keep jobs. The Occupational Safety and Health Act has made workplaces safer. The Fair Labor Standards Act has ensured that workers are paid a fair wage and overtime pay. The National Labor Relations Act has protected workers’ right to organize unions and bargain collectively with their employers. The Social Security Act has provided retirement benefits, disability benefits, and survivor benefits to workers and their families. The Wagner-Peyser Act has helped job seekers find jobs and employers find qualified workers. The Davis-Bacon Act has ensured that workers working on federal government contracts are paid a fair wage.
Challenges and Opportunities for Labor Legislation in the Coming Decade
Despite the progress that has been made in the last decade, there are still a number of challenges facing labor legislation. One challenge is that many of the laws are outdated and need to be updated to reflect the changing economy. For example, the Fair Labor Standards Act was passed in 1938, and the minimum wage has not been raised since 2009. Another challenge is that many employers are finding ways to skirt the law. For example, some employers are misclassifying employees as independent contractors in order to avoid paying them minimum wage or overtime pay.
Despite the challenges, there are also a number of opportunities for labor legislation in the coming decade. One opportunity is to update existing laws to reflect the changing economy. For example, the Fair Labor Standards Act could be updated to raise the minimum wage and to expand overtime pay eligibility. Another opportunity is to create new laws to address emerging challenges, such as the gig economy and the rise of automation.
One specific area where new legislation could be helpful is in addressing the challenges facing gig workers. Gig workers are independent contractors who work for companies on a temporary basis. They often lack basic benefits and protections, such as health insurance, paid time off, and minimum wage. New legislation could help to ensure that gig workers are treated fairly and have access to the same benefits and protections as other workers.
Another area where new legislation could be helpful is in addressing the challenges posed by automation. Automation is the use of machines to perform tasks that were previously performed by humans. Automation is displacing workers in many industries, and it is important to ensure that workers who are displaced by automation have access to training and support so that they can find new jobs.
In addition to passing new legislation, there are other things that can be done to improve labor laws. One is to enforce existing laws more vigorously. The government can do this by increasing funding for enforcement agencies, such as the Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor. Another is to educate workers about their rights and how to protect themselves. This can be done through public awareness campaigns and through worker centers, which provide free legal and other services to workers.
Labor legislation has played an important role in improving the lives of American workers. However, there are still a number of challenges facing labor legislation in the coming decade, such as the need to update existing laws to reflect the changing economy and the need to address the challenges facing gig workers and workers who are displaced by automation. It is important to work to improve labor laws so that all workers can have decent working conditions and fair pay.
Frequently Asked Questions about Major Union Legislation over the last Decade
The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 is a federal law that overturned a Supreme Court decision that made it difficult for employees to sue for pay discrimination. The law allows employees to file pay discrimination lawsuits within 180 days of their most recent paycheck, even if the discriminatory pay practices began earlier.
What was the Supreme Court decision that the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act overturned?
In Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., the Supreme Court ruled that employees must file pay discrimination lawsuits within 180 days of the first discriminatory paycheck. This meant that employees who were paid less than their male counterparts for many years could not sue if they did not realize that they were being discriminated against until many years after the discrimination began.
Why was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act important?
The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was important because it made it easier for employees to sue for pay discrimination. The law allows employees to file lawsuits even if the discrimination began many years ago, as long as they file within 180 days of their most recent paycheck. This means that employees who are paid less than their male counterparts are more likely to be able to sue for discrimination and receive the compensation that they deserve.
How has the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act impacted American workers?
The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act has helped millions of American workers who have been discriminated against on the basis of sex. The law has made it easier for employees to sue for pay discrimination and receive the compensation that they deserve.
The Affordable Care Act of 2010, also known as Obamacare, is a federal law that expanded health insurance coverage to millions of Americans. The law requires most employers to provide health insurance to their employees. The law also prohibits insurance companies from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions.
What are some of the key features of the Affordable Care Act?
The Affordable Care Act has a number of key features, including:
- Individual mandate: The Affordable Care Act requires most Americans to have health insurance. If they do not have health insurance, they may have to pay a penalty.
- Employer mandate: The Affordable Care Act requires most employers to provide health insurance to their employees. If they do not, they may have to pay a penalty.
- Health insurance exchanges: The Affordable Care Act created health insurance exchanges, where individuals and small businesses can shop for and purchase health insurance plans.
- Subsidies: The Affordable Care Act provides subsidies to help low- and middle-income Americans afford health insurance.
- Medicaid expansion: The Affordable Care Act expanded Medicaid eligibility to millions of Americans.
How has the Affordable Care Act impacted American workers?
The Affordable Care Act has had a number of positive impacts on American workers. The law has expanded health insurance coverage to millions of workers and their families. The law has also made it easier for workers to get health insurance, even if they have pre-existing conditions.
- Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC): The FSOC is a group of regulators that identifies and responds to systemic risks in the financial system. It has the power to designate financial institutions as “too big to fail,” which means that they are subject to stricter regulation.
- Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB): The CFPB is an independent agency that protects consumers from unfair and deceptive practices by financial institutions. It has the power to investigate and prosecute financial institutions that violate the law.
- Volcker Rule: The Volcker Rule prohibits banks from engaging in certain types of proprietary trading. This rule is designed to reduce the risk of banks taking on too much risk and causing another financial crisis.
- Stress tests: The Dodd-Frank Act requires the Federal Reserve to conduct stress tests on the largest banks to ensure that they are able to withstand a financial crisis.
- Derivatives reform: The Dodd-Frank Act reforms the derivatives market, which is a market where investors can trade contracts that are based on the future value of assets. The reforms are designed to make the derivatives market more transparent and less risky.
In addition to these key features, the Dodd-Frank Act also includes a number of other provisions that are designed to reform the financial system and protect consumers. For example, the law creates new rules for mortgage lending, credit card lending, and student loan lending. The law also requires financial institutions to disclose more information about their activities.
The Dodd-Frank Act has been controversial, but it has also been credited with making the financial system more stable and protecting consumers from predatory lending practices.
The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) is a federal law that guarantees most employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year for certain family and medical reasons, such as the birth or adoption of a child, or to care for a sick family member.
Who is eligible for FMLA leave?
To be eligible for FMLA leave, employees must have worked for their employer for at least 12 months and at least 1,250 hours during the previous 12 months. Employees must also work at a location where the employer has at least 50 employees within 75 miles.
What are the reasons for FMLA leave?
Employees can take FMLA leave for a number of reasons, including:
- The birth or adoption of a child
- To care for a sick spouse, child, or parent
- To recover from a serious illness or injury
- To attend to a family emergency
How do I request FMLA leave?
Employees must request FMLA leave at least 30 days in advance, if possible. If the employee is unable to give 30 days’ notice due to an unforeseen circumstance, they must provide as much notice as possible.
What are my rights under FMLA leave?
Employees who take FMLA leave have the right to return to their job or a similar job with the same pay and benefits. Employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who take FMLA leave.
How has the Family and Medical Leave Act impacted American workers?
The Family and Medical Leave Act has had a significant impact on American workers. The law has given workers more flexibility to balance work and family life. The law has also helped workers to care for sick family members and to recover from serious illnesses and injuries.
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) is a federal law that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in all areas of public life, including employment. The ADA defines a disability as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.
How does the ADA protect workers with disabilities?
The ADA prohibits employers from discriminating against workers with disabilities in all aspects of employment, including hiring, firing, promotions, job assignments, compensation, benefits, and training. Employers are also required to provide reasonable accommodations to workers with disabilities, unless doing so would cause an undue hardship to the employer.
What are some examples of reasonable accommodations?
Some examples of reasonable accommodations under the ADA include:
- Modifying a job description or work environment
- Providing a sign language interpreter or other assistive technology
- Offering flexible work arrangements, such as remote work or telecommuting
- Rescheduling job duties or deadlines
The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSHA) is a federal law that sets standards for workplace safety and health. OSHA is enforced by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
What are some of the key features of the OSHA?
OSHA has a number of key features, including:
- General duty clause: The general duty clause requires employers to provide a workplace that is free from hazards that are likely to cause death or serious injury.
- Specific standards: OSHA has developed specific standards for a variety of workplace hazards, such as asbestos, lead, and machine guarding.
- Inspections: OSHA inspectors can visit workplaces to investigate complaints and to ensure that employers are complying with OSHA standards.
- Citations and penalties: OSHA can cite and penalize employers who violate OSHA standards.
How has OSHA impacted American workers?
OSHA has had a significant impact on American workers. OSHA has helped to make workplaces safer and has reduced the number of workplace fatalities and injuries. OSHA has also helped to raise awareness of workplace hazards and to promote workplace safety and health programs.