History of the National Labor Relations Board
The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is an autonomous agency of the government of the United States created in 1935 after the enactment of the Wagner act/ National Labor Relations Act of 1935. The National Labor Relations Board at its inception was charged with the responsibilities of organizing elections for employee union representatives, determining the right bargaining strategies for employees and investigating all unfair labor practices by employers on their employees. Examples of the unjust employment practices that the National Labor Relations Board investigates includes coercion, infringement of membership to professional union rights and the failure of employers to collective bargain with their employees
(McCulloch & Bornstein, 1974).
However as per the stipulations of the Wagner act in 1935, the powers of the National Labor Relations Board did not include cases of labor involving employees in the public sector, real estate merchants, employees in the agricultural sector and schools run by the church. The National Labor Relations Board was also charged with the responsibility of determining the eligibility of employees to join labor unions. The board also investigates and setting the benchmarks for employers and unions for fair work practices in the workplace. The National Labor Relations Board ensures that there is transparency and clarity in employee unions by mitigating acts of corruption in employee unions (University of Michigan, 2009).
The National Labor Relations Board is divided into two bodies. It has a thirty-member board and a general counsel of five members. The board has thirty regional offices across the united states run by elected officials and administrators who handle all the investigations and other related duties in their areas of assignment. The general counsel acts as the prosecutor in all the labor cases while the board fulfils the role of a judicial body striking a good balance of power in the board. The total jurisdiction of the National Labor Relations Board covers only the workers in the private sector and the United States postal services. The board cannot intervene on behalf of the government employees. The National Labor Relations Board cannot also handle labor issues of the agricultural airline and railroad employees (National Labor Relations Board).
Before the year 1935, American employees enjoyed the right to join professional trade unions. American employees also had the right to withhold their labor in cases of industrial disputes like strikes or mass actions. However, their employers had the right to fire them at will because of enrolling in trade unions or participating in strikes. During the hard economic times brought about by the great depression, it was easier for employers to hire an employee than it was easier for an employee to find work. Many American workers therefore refrained from joining professional trade unions in the first two decades of the 20th century. By the year 1933, only 10 percent of the American workforces were members of professional trade unions (Books, 2010).
The predecessor of the National Labor Relations Board is the National Recovery Administration established by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1933 under the national recovery act of 1933. This national recovery act was supposed to stimulate the economy and create jobs after the great depression. The National Recovery Administration enacted many voluntary codes of conduct affecting many industries in terms of the pay scales and the minimum work hours for each employee. The act also gave employees the right to form professional trade unions and engage in collective bargaining. Companies that observed these codes were supposed to display a blue eagle emblem as a sign of their patriotic nature (Freider et al, 2010).
The National Recovery Administration wrote some 557 codes of conduct for employers and employees in America. Although these codes did improve the labor conditions in America, the codes were not well researched and were written hastily and they represented mainly the interests of the big businesses but not the employers or the consumers. In 1935, the Supreme Court ruled that the National Recovery Administration was not constitutional and passed the National Labor Relations Act, which set up the National Labor Relations Board (Freider et al, 2010).
In the year 1933, Senator Robert Wagner submitted a bill that sought to curtail unfair labor practices in America by employers. This bill was named the National Labor Relations Act or the Wagner act. The US president, Franklin D. Roosevelt endorsed this bill the same year. The act expanded the powers of the American government to intervene in employee and employer labor relations through the National Labor Relations Board (McCulloch & Bornstein, 2010).
This law is considered the law that most affected the relationship between private enterprises in America and the federal government. The American congress adopted the Wagner act on July 5 1935. The American public welcomed the bill, as it was the first bill that effectively regulated American labor. Before the enactment of the National Labor Relations Act/Wagner act, employers had the right question, spy and punish or fire employees in trade unions at will (University of Michigan, 2009).
Beginning the year 1930, many employees began the process of organizing themselves in large numbers in trade unions that there were great interruptions and stoppages in labor in 1934 and 1933 like citywide factory strikes. There were also many skirmishes and disputes between workers who bent themselves on joining organized labor unions on one side and the hired security guards and the police squads in the other side who sought to protect the interests of factory owners who hated the concept of unionizing (University of Michigan, 2009).
The United States congress passed the National Labor Relations Act as a way of preventing large scale and potentially revolution ally revolts against employers in America (University of Michigan, 2009). The Wagner act requires American employers to acknowledge the right of employees to join unions that most of their employees favored. Employees in America therefore were given the right to self-organizing by joining professional labor unions and bargain collectively through their representatives they choose themselves. Employees also have the right to engage in activities in these professional organizations for the purpose of mutual aid protection and collective bargaining (Freider et al, 2010).
Section eight of the Wagner act also prohibits any unjust labor practices in America including the failure to avail proper representation of all parties in collective bargaining. To strengthen the new employee rights in the Wagner act. The Wagner act / National Labor Relations Act also established the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).The NLRB is charged with responsibilities such as the duty to preclude and remedy all unfair labor practices committed by the employer employee and their unions (National Labor Relations Board, 2009)
The National Labor Relations Board has the powers to issue orders for immoral labor practices by the employer or trade unions like the failure of employers to meet the employees in the collective bargaining meetings. The NLRB also conducts elections for employees unions when requested. It also has the powers to request courts to sanction some rulings on labor issues. The Supreme Court validated this Wagner act in the year 1937. The Wagner act is regarded as the most important piece of labor legislation in the twentieth century. This act applied to workers in the private sector expects those in the agricultural sector (Books, 2010).
The National Labor Relations Board at its inception consisted of three member’s general counsel appointed by the president and operated as an independent agent of the government. NLRB also was given powers at its inception to determine whether a union qualified to represent a group of employees using the methods it deemed suitable. The National Labor Relations Board has the powers to order the reinstatement of person fired from work or order back pay fees to a fired employee (University of Michigan, 2009).
Among the unfair labor, practices that the Wagner act that established the National Labor Relations Board prohibits against include domination or interference with labor union, imposing unfair conditions on membership to trade unions and refusing to collectively bargain with employees unions on pay. The passage of the National Labor Relations Act strengthened the zeal of American employees to form labor unions. Many unions formed after the passage of the Wagner act in the manufacturing electrical, automotive, and steel and rubber industries. By the year 1945, thirty five percent of all American labor was in professional trade unions (Freider et al, 2010).
The president of the United States is the one that appoints the general counsel of the board but these appointees must be approved by the senate .The board members do serve a maximum of a five year term while the general counsel serves a four year term. The national relations labor board functioned well during the World War II years especially between the years 1942 to 1945. The NLRB at this time had twelve general counsel members with all the public labor and management bodies represented in the board (McCulloch & Bornstein, 1974).
When the Taft Hartley labor act labor management relations act was passed in 1947, the National Labor Relations Board became a full judicial, body that had the power to prosecute unjust labor practices. The action of the body relied on the union representatives filing an affidavit declaring that they were non-communists and forwarding a record of the financial information. The labor management relations act therefore extended the powers of the National Labor Relations Board to handle cases including unfair treatment of workers, the failure for collective bargaining and other forms of employee discrimination in the workplace like coercing employees to select their representatives in union elections or persuading employees to discriminate against some certain workers (Books, 2010).
The Taft Hartley act of 1947 was in a way restrictive of the privileges enjoyed under the National Labor Relations Act of 1935 because it has the clause that stipulates that employee unions can be indicted or retrained through a court injunction .The cat also has the provisions that states that the board can be sued for practices such as secondary boycotts or mass picketing. This was an attempt by the employers and opponents of the National Labor Relations Act to rein in on the Wagner’s act that established the NLRB (Freider et al, 2010).
The Taft Hartley act also created the official administrative structures for the National Labor Relations Board by proposing a board and a general counsel as the two distinctive bodies of the NLRB. The general counsel to function as the investigator and the prosecutor of the unfair labor practices while the board decides on the cases brought before the NLRB. The general counsel cannot dispute the decision of the board even when it is contrary to the position advocated by the general counsel. The National Labor Relations Board also oversees the administration of the provisions of the tart Hartley act recommendations on the holding of union lections and the resolution of jurisdictional disputes (National Labor Relations Board, 2009).
The Tart Hartley act also established formal divisions of the general counsel into the divisions responsible for the operation management, advise, administration and enforcement. The tart Hartley act also stipulated the process of filing charges to the National Labor Relations Board. The affected parties files charges against their employer or unions in the regional offices of the NLRB (McCuLloch & Bornsten, 1974).
The regional office then examines the complains and if the violation of labor laws is valid the case is taken to an administrative law judge who conducts hearing of the cases. The five board members then review the decision of the administrative law judge. The decisions of the five board members can then reviewed by the court of appeal. The decision of the court is not self-executing and the National Labor Relations Board must seek the enforcement of the courts to force the parties to comply with orders (McCulloch & Bornstein, 1974).
The Landrum- Griffin act of 1959 also called the labor management and reporting and disclosure act repelled the requirement of declaration of non-communism and a submission of non-financial data for a union to qualify their case to be heard by the NLRB. The Act added on some of the stipulations of the Taft Hartley act like defining the unfair labor practices in the workplace and a ban on all forms of restrictions on employee protests. This labor management reporting and disclosure act also allowed federal states labor relations agencies and the federal courts to intervene in some labor disputes decline by the National Labor Relations Board (Freider et al, 2010).
The Landrum Griffin act of 1959 was enacted because of the looting of the union treasuries and the denial of the fundamental rights of the members of the union. The act also had clauses that allowed forced financial disclosure by unions represented by the National Labor Relations Board and established the election procedures for the members of union officers the land rum griffins act widened the secondary boycott provisions and restricted the picketing rights for employees (Books, 2010).
The land rum griffin’s act also severe affected the policies of the National Labor Relations Board for example the act banned the boycotts pressures and also outlawed contractual agreements that prevent the employers from carrying out business with the people declared off limits by the employee unions (McCuloch & Bornstein, 1974).
Since the enactment of the National Labor Relations Board in 1935 the coverage of the board operations has since extended to cover United States postal workers. A decision approved in the 1970s and private health care institutions in 1974. However, a series of court rulings have reduced the powers of the National Labor Relations Board. The board also comes into attacks by many organized labor unions for being pro employer (National Labor Relations Board, 2009).
Between the years 2007 to 2009, the national labor relations counsel suffered from quorum issues after the retirement of three council members. There were also delays in appointment and the approval of replacements by the United States congress due to infighting between the republicans and the democrats. The delays left the five members general counsel without a quorum. The only two remaining general counsels Liebman and Schaumberg made over 400 decisions between 2008 and the year 2009 but there were legal battles over their eligibility to make decisions without quorum (Freider et al, 2010).
The legal battle reached the Supreme Court, which ruled later that the two counsels did not have power to make decisions without quorums. The Supreme Court ruled that the two members general counsels were not sufficient to form a quorum overturning the 400 decisions made earlier by the general counsel (Freider et al, 2010).
The National Labor Relations Board has come a long way to become one of the most important agencies of the United States government that handles labor disputes in the United States. Despite the challenges faces in resolving some of the labor disputes in America, it is one of the most important agent of the government that ensures that American workers are not oppressed in the workplace.