Essay winners explain the NLRA of 1935

East Alton – The Greater Madison County Federation of Labor’s 22nd annual John A. Broyer/Jack Greer Memorial Scholarship Essay contest this year had two winners, Brayley Roberts and Anna Stamer.

The topic was: “Explain why the National Labor Relations Act of 1935 was enacted, including any amendments since 1935 and how does it protect employees who want to organize a union at their workplace today.”

The contestants had to write their essays without bringing notes or books. Roberts is the daughter of UFCW Local 881 member Mike Roberts, and Stamer is the daughter of Iron Workers Local 392 member Rick Stamer, who is also reading clerk for the Federation. Each winner receives $1,500.

NLRA gave employees the right
to form unions without repercussions

ANNA STAMER accepts her scholarship from B. Dean Webb (at right), president of the Greater Madison County Federation of Labor, along with her father, Rick Stamer, and Federation Treasurer Letitia Fuller.


The National Labor Relations Act of 1935 was enacted to protect employees and employers from unfair labor practices. In the years leading up to 1935, there were a lot of altercations between employees and employers over creation of unions.

In 1933-34, there were citywide strikes that led to violent interactions between employees, police and employers. This all helped lead Robert Wagner to create the NLRA (National Labor Relations Act). It was signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on July 5, 1935.

Although it was greatly supported by labor organizations, it was strongly opposed by Republicans who attempted for many years to have it repealed or deemed unconstitutional. The Act applies to all workers of interstate commerce except for those in railways, airways, agriculture and government.


A main goal of the NLRA was to give employees the right to form a union and not have to worry about the repercussions that may come from their employers. If someone wished to start a union at their workplace today, they could do so without any discrimination, termination, reduction of pay or hours from their employer.

The employee would also be able to discuss joining the union or even pass out literature about it, provided this was done during non-work time (break) or in a non-work zone (parking lot etc.).

Your employer cannot punish you and also is not allowed to encourage others not to join the union through bribes, promotions, pay raises, etc.

Once you have created your union, you need your employer to recognize it. If they refuse, it is sent to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). This was created as a part of the NLRA and is made up of five members, selected by the president. The NLRB takes a blind vote on whether or not to accept your union. The NLRB also plays an important role in another aspect of the NLRA, encouragement of collective bargaining.

Collective bargaining is essentially negotiations that take place between an employer and a group of employees, or their union. Even employees who are not members of the union still benefit from the union’s negotiations. The NLRB makes sure that all rules and legislations are followed when it comes to any aspect of the NLRA, because that is one of its main jobs.


In the years following the NLRA, the NLRB made a number of rulings that caused many people to feel the board was anti-employer. This is part of what contributed to the first amendment that was made to the NLRA.

The Taft-Hartley Labor Act, also known as Labor Management Relations Act, went into law in 1947. It was vetoed by President Truman but he was overridden by Congress.

The Act was created by Republicans, Sen. Robert Taft and Rep. Fred Hartley. It lessened the power of the NLRA, something Republicans had been trying to do for 12 years, and added a number of new provisions.

One of the main things it targeted was striking workers. Along with making different boycotts illegal, it required workers to give 60 days notice before they could strike. The Taft-Hartley Act also added a list of unfair labor practices aimed at unions and required the NLRB to follow up with such accusations instead of it being at the board’s discretion. One of the final parts of the amendments prohibited unions from donating funds to federal political campaigns.

Another amendment made was the Landum-Griffin Act of 1959, also known as the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act. It was created by Democrat Phil Landum and Republican Robert Griffin and came at a time when unions were being accused of corruption.

The main purpose of the Act was to provide some transparency to unions in their normal business and in finances. It required secret votes for local union offices and made all members responsible for funds to try and increase member involvement.

The National Labor Relations Act has played a huge role in the formation of unions and securing workers’ rights. It continues to impact people all across the country in a number of ways, every day.

NLRA protection for forming unions
was much needed in 1935

BRAYLEY ROBERTS (center) accepts her scholarship from Letitia Fuller, treasurer, and B. Dean Webb, president of the Greater Madison County Federation of Labor. – Labor Tribune photo


Prior to the enactment of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) of 1935, there was little protection for employees who wanted to organize unions in their workplaces. Employees could be discriminated against, laid off and even fired for joining or supporting a union.

However, after the NLRA was passed, employees were placed on the same level as their employers and finally began to receive the protection that they deserved. Setting the precedent for all that unions are today, the enactment of the NLRA was a monumental step for both employees and employers and consequently changed the labor movement forever.

In 1933 and 1934, violent strikes began to break out. Not only were workers upset with how they had been treated by their employers, but they also had been discriminated against, and some even fired, for wanting to have a voice in their workplaces.

These workers felt that they should not be punished for organizing or supporting a union. Some were even afraid to speak out in fear of the backlash they might have received.

At this point, there were virtually no laws to protect these employees. However, soon the workers received the protection that they needed – the passing of the National Labor Relations Act of 1935.

Under this Act, employees were now able to organize unions without the fear of being fired. The NLRA made it illegal for any employer to discriminate, fire or lay off any employee because of their stance on unions. Among other things, the NLRA also allowed for collective bargaining among unions and non-violent boycotts.

This act also established guidelines for discussing unions in the workplace and created the National Labor Relations Board – an advisory board comprised of five members who enforce the rules of the NLRA and ensure the protection of workers nationwide.


When the National Labor Relations Act of 1935 gave supporters of the union the revolutionary change they demanded, some critics argued that employers had lost a lot of bargaining power.

In 1947, the Labor Management Relations Act (LMRA) amended a few parts of the NLRA. In order to lessen disagreements between employers and employees and create stricter regulations on violent secondary boycotts, opponents of the NLRA felt this amendment was essential.

Similar to the LMRA, another amendment was made in 1959: the Labor Management Reporting and Directing Act. This amendment to the NLRA revised some of the tight regulations added in 1947, which slightly decreased the overall percentage of unions, in an attempt to come to a fair consensus on what the modern NLRA should entail.


Keeping the core of the NLRA through both amendments – Section 7, protection of employees – both the LMRA and LMRDA were signed to amend the details of the NLRA.

After the enactment of the National Labor Relations Act of 1935, employees were given protection against employers to let them organize and support unions without fear of losing their jobs. This was ensured by creating the Board, which would decide if both workers’ and employees’ actions regarding unions were legal in the workplace.

Serving as undoubtedly one of the largest steps in the labor movement, the act allows unions and employees to grow in ways they previously could not have. Although the NLRA was passed in 1935, it continues to impact employees all over the country by providing protection for them and their ideals.

Due to this protection of the union and its members, the National Labor Relations Act of 1935 served as the backbone for the massive growth of unions, proving it gave workers the encouragement they needed to change America forever.

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