How did federal legislation support the establishment of unions and union rights?
After a phase where laws punished union activities, unlawful contracts and the significant effort to ban unions, workers would soon see the results of their struggle. The start of a new chapter of unions started when the government took over the railroad system. Congress passed the Transportation Act of 1920 which was created a Railroad Labor Board to hear disputes between railroad owners and workers, a forerunner to today’s arbitration process (Seaquist, 2015). This was the first step where legislation paved the path to support the creation of unions. Many acts were passed after that, but one of the most significant ones was The National Labor Relations Act of 1935. The National Labor Relations Act forbids employers from interfering with, restraining, or coercing employees in the exercise of rights relating to organizing, forming, joining or assisting a labor organization for collective bargaining purposes, or from working together to improve terms and conditions of employment, or refraining from any such activity (NLRB, n.d.). Although this Act was not one that favored management, it was a significant accomplishment to protect employee rights and union organization.
If such legislation had not been passed, do you think that labor organizations would have developed?
I think that if the legislation had not passed, labor organizations would still develop based on the fact that workers fought for the creation unions and employee rights long before legislation. However, I don’t think that the development of these would have been as effective or created in the same pace as with legislation. Any time the government passes legislation in support of employee rights or anything for that matter, it sets an expectation and a standard that must be followed, making it easier to protect or implement change.
Would they have succeeded in establishing themselves?
Eventually, I feel they would have succeeded but not to the extent they did with the help of legislation. A labor organization, since its inception, was strong long before the passing of numerous Acts to protect workers and their rights. Hence the reason government intervention resulting in legislation support.
Federal laws progressively established legislation to support unions and union rights. There were a series of laws established and amended at various stages of the labor movement. Prior to today’s established legal protections employers coerced employees to enter into a conditional contract of employment called Yellow Dog Contracts. The contract outlined the condition of employment being that the person could not be involved in any union activity while they work for the employer, and if they did not sign the contract that they would not be hired (Seaquist, 2015). The established National Industrial Recovery Act passed in 1933 by Congress made it legal for employees to be able to organize and participate in collective bargaining, which deemed the yellow dog contracts illegal. The Clayton Antitrust Act that Congress created in 1914 that excluded labor unions from being recognized as being illegal and a conspiracy to trade (Seaquist, 2015). This was an amendment to the Sherman Antitrust Act.
If various legislation laws had not been passed, I think labor organizations would have developed, but at a much slower rate if the right leadership was in a place like Samuel Gompers. There still would have been many more challenges, a lot more bloodshed, and violence, and poor working conditions throughout the movement.
Before laws were passed there were other formations of unions that organized in protest of poor working conditions, wages, child labor laws etc but did not stand the test of time because they focused on specific skills or trades. I think that without legislation support there would have been some form of union activity.
How have the NLRA rules about contact with employees failed to keep up with technology?
Technology, as it should, has come a long way since the NLRA was established in 1935. Of course in the beginning, employers wanted the union to have no/limited contact with members or prospective members. One way to communicate back then was to hand out pamphlets. The union representatives could stand outside the workplace and hand out pamphlets but if the employee themselves were handing out the pamphlets amongst themselves then they were protected. (Seaquist, 2015) Well, now we have the internet, email, social media and cell phones. In this day an age it is difficult to not be in contact with someone. Recently, measures have been taken to protect the communication of union members involving social media. “In the second decision, issued December 14, 2012, the Board found that it was unlawful for a non-profit organization to fire five employees who participated in Facebook postings about a coworker who intended to complain to management about their work performance” (NLRB, 2019). Today, because of technology, members have better protection than before.
National Labor Relations Board. (2019).The NLRB and Social Media. Retrieved from https://www.nlrb.gov/rights-we-protect/rights/nlrb-and-social-media
How have the NLRA rules about contact with employees failed to keep up with technology?
National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) –
Also called the Wagner Act, this 1935 federal law guaranteed employees the right to self-
organize; 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 (a strike) or other mutual aid and protection.Seaquist (2015).
As the years pass by, technology will continue to grow larger due to the demand and use of it. Almost everyone (if not everyone) uses some form of technology, especially organizations. Several organizations use social media as a way to connect with their consumers and audience. They use these platforms to communicate and keep the public in the know, keep up with trends that keep them competitive in their industry. Technology helps organizations better promote themselves.
NLRA rules about contact with employees failed to keep up with technology because “will not protect social media activities when there is no group activity, the activity does not pertain to the conditions or terms of employment or the activity can be viewed as disloyal or disallowed behavior. The NLRA’s protection of “concerted activity” includes such activities as employee discussions about pay, work conditions, and safety concerns.” Schlag (2013). Social media can be a tricky topic within the workplace because people can misconstrue comments and post from employees. Pictures, text messages, comments and any other forum that people can use as an outlet can be a concern for the organization. If the NLRA has guidelines on what they only protect in forms of technology they may be setting the company up for failure.
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