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(official name, National Labor Relations Act), in the USA, the law regulating labor relations adopted on July 5, 1935. Named after its author, Senator R. Wagner.
The adoption of the Wagner Act was brought about by the attempt of the government of the USA to dampen the extremely sharp class contradictions associated with the world economic crisis of 1929-33. The act proclaimed the right of workers to organize, conclude collective contracts, and strike and the legalization of certain kinds of strikes. The act prohibited the employer from violating the workers’ right to conclude collective contracts and refusing to conclude such contracts, from exerting influence over trade unions, and from discrimination in hiring or firing for reasons of trade-union activity or the workers’ exercising their legal rights. On the basis of the Wagner Act the National Labor Relations Board was founded and was entrusted with broad authority, including the right to restore fired workers to their jobs. The constitutionality of the Wagner Act was recognized by the Supreme Court of the USA in 1937. As a federal act, the Wagner Act applied only to workers employed in federal enterprises; however it also influenced the legislation of states, the majority of which adopted the so-called little Wagner acts.
In practice, the application of the Wagner Act met with opposition from employers who used the administrative and judicial apparatus to try to negate the concessions won by the working class. As early as 1943 the rights of workers were restricted by the Smith-Connally Act. In 1947 the anti- labor Taft-Hartley Act was adopted, which virtually replaced the Wagner Act.