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John, Attorney
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Dr. Horace P. Karaastan, Distinguished Professor of Labor Relations

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Dr. Horace P. Karaastan, Distinguished Professor of Labor Relations History at the University and a widely recognized authority in his field, had readily accepted the invitation to speak at the upcoming winter banquet meeting of the Newspaper Owners’ Roundtable. Forty-five minutes had seemed to him to be somewhat on the meager side to properly accommodate the topic that he had been asked to handle—“American Labor Union History from the Eighteenth Century to the Present.” But thoughts of the considerable remuneration that he would receive for this brief stint allowed him to forget his compunctions and he approached the date of the banquet with his customary optimism.
Unexpectedly, and sadly from Karastan’s point of view, the two speakers who preceded him at the microphone (a United States Congressman and a woman from the Internal Revenue Service) each consumed far more than the 15 minutes that they had been allotted. And the professor, originally scheduled to be presented to the audience at 8:15 p.m., did not get the floor until 9:10 p.m. The last words that he heard the Roundtable program chairman used in introducing him were “whose topic for the next few minutes will be ‘The Three Most Important Events in American Labor Union History.’
What would you, as Dr. Karastan, now say to the audience? Why?
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Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Ok, thanks.

Through labor strife and political pressure, the three most important events in labor history - the passing of the Wagner Act, the Taft Hartley Changes and Landrum Griffin Changes have forged the general scheme of modern labor relations.

In the 1930s the current labor laws of the day were largely inadequate to allow workers to form union. When workers attempted to form unions, employers could easily rebuff efforts for unionization, refuse to recognize or form company-dominated unions. Likewise, while workers could attempt to form unions, there was no protection against employer retaliation for the same; in particular discharge of unionists.

In approximately 1935 Senator Wagner introduced the bill that would eventually become the National Labor Relations Act. The passing of the bill was not an easy sale, and Senator Wagner was thought of as astute legislator with a great ability to persuade. Eventually the Wagner Act was passed – conferring upon employees a legally enforceable triad of right – 1) the right to organize; 2) the right to bargain collectively; 3) the right to engage in strikes, picketing, and other concerted activities. To enforce these rights what we now know as unfair labor practices and an agency (the NLRB) was created with exclusive jurisdiction to enforce these rights. There were, however, no parallel employer protections in the law.

In the late 1940s the Taft-Hartley changes were added to scheme of labor laws – largely to give employers more labor relations protections; adding restrictions on unions and guaranteeing certain freedom of speech and conduct to employers an individual employees.

Specifically, added to the NLRA was an employees ability to refrain from union activities. Likewise, a series of unfair labor practices was added to apply to unions: 1) forbidding union restraint on employees of their rights under the Act; 2) forbidding union influence on employer discrimination against employees; 3) crating an affirmative duty for unions to bargain collectively with the employer; 4) outlawing various secondary boycotts by unions; 5) outlawing unions force or influence to require assignment of work; and 6) forbidding unions from charging excessive or discriminatory fees.

Additionally, the Taft-Hartley changes created a free speech provision for employers and unions. Likewise, the duty for each party to bargain collectively and to meet at reasonable times was created. Further, the modern scheme for unit composition was created. A provision was also added to give state right to work laws precedence over union shop provisions. Lastly, internal union regulations were added to the law.

In the late 1950s, a political call for more union regulation came to the forefront of political activity- oddly from the Democratic party that largely won its dominating political position from unions. The Landrum-Griffin changes were drafted from political foundry. Importantly, recognition and organizational picketing was made unlawful – 1) where another union had already been recognized; 2) where an election had been held in the past 12 months, or 3) picketing continued without the union’s filing of an election petition. Further, restrictions occurred in unions’ abilities to provide negative publicity and direct pressure on neutral employers to force recognition. Likewise, ‘hot cargo” agreements were outlawed – forbidding direct or implied agreements whereby an employer could refuse to handle goods of another employer. Prehire agreements were also allowed in the construction industry, and employees engaged in strike were granted the right to vote.
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