National Labor Relations Board

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Related to National Labor Relations Board: Department of Labor, National Labor Relations Act

National Labor Relations Board

National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), independent agency of the U.S. government created under the National Labor Relations Act of 1935 (Wagner Act), and amended by the acts of 1947 (Taft-Hartley Labor Act) and 1959 (Landrum-Griffin Act), which affirmed labor's right to organize and bargain collectively through representatives of their own choice or to refrain from such activities. The board of five members (appointed by the U.S. President with the approval of the Senate for five-year terms) is assisted by 33 regional directors. This board determines proper bargaining units, conducts elections for union representation, and investigates charges of unfair labor practices by employers. Unfair practices include interference, coercion, or restraint in labor's self-organizational rights; interference with the formation of labor unions; encouraging or discouraging membership in a union; and refusal to bargain collectively with a duly chosen employee representative. The NLRB does not have the power to consider cases involving real estate brokers, agricultural employees, domestic workers, family workers, government employees, and church-run schools.


The Wagner Act, which established the NLRB, was validated by the Supreme Court in 1937. The NLRB functioned during World War II, but labor relations were mainly handled by the National War Labor Board (WLB), which existed from 1942 until 1945. A 12-man body, with the public, management, and labor equally represented, the WLB soon shifted from arbitration to formulating policies.

With the passage in 1947 of the Taft-Hartley Labor Act (also known as the Labor-Management Relations Act), the NLRB was converted into a purely judicial body, with the prosecution of unfair labor practices transferred to a general counsel. The board's action was dependent upon the filing by the union chiefs of affidavits proving that they were not Communists and of complete financial data. The NLRB's field of investigation was extended to cover the following practices as unfair to employers: refusal to bargain collectively, coercing employers in the selection of their bargaining agency, persuading employers to discriminate against certain employees, and conducting secondary boycotts or jurisdictional strikes.

In 1959 the Taft-Hartley Labor Act was amended by the Landrum-Griffin Act (also known as the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act), which repealed the requirement that a union must file a non-Communist affidavit and a financial report in order to obtain a hearing before the NLRB. The act also gave the states permission to assume jurisdiction over cases that the NLRB declined, even when interstate commerce was involved. Organizational and recognition picketing (i.e., picketing of companies where another union is already recognized) were made unlawful, and the NLRB general counsel was required to seek an injunction against such picketing if a violation was proved.

The Landrum-Griffin Act also affected policies of the board. It banned secondary boycott pressures and, with some exceptions, outlawed so-called hot-cargo agreements (i.e., express or implied contracts that prevent employers from doing business with persons declared off limits by unions). The NLRB's power was subsequently extended to postal workers (1970) and private health care institutions (1974), but a number of court rulings have reduced the board's power. During the 1980s organized labor attacked the NLRB for being pro-employer.


See bibliography under labor law.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2022, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

National Labor Relations Board

independent agency of U.S. government, supporting labor’s right to organize. [Am. Hist.: NCE, 1887]
See: Labor
Allusions—Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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