Labor Law in America: Historical and Critical Essays
Labor Law In America Historical And Critical Essays
An emphasis on a general loss of power by the corporate community is contradicted by the way in which the same Senate and House that passed the National Labor Relations Act treated other liberal legislation, namely, public utility regulation and changes in the Federal Reserve System. First, business was successful in removing the most stringent forms of utilities regulation (e.g., Parrish 1970). One historian concludes that the House was rebuking Roosevelt in this vote because a majority of its members were "annoyed at what they considered Roosevelt's undue hostility to free enterprise" (Patterson 1967, p. 56). Second, the proposed reforms in the Federal Reserve Act were changed so that New York bankers retained some of their traditional power through the Open Market Committee and the act ended up acceptable to the American Banking Association (Schlesinger 1960, pp. 300-301). It therefore seems that the National Labor Relations Act was a unique piece of legislation even for a liberal Congress, which means it is not possible to explain its passage with generalities such as "loss of business power."
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The National Labor Relations Act also passed handily because it was acceptable to the centrists and liberals who controlled the executive branch on this issue, meaning Roosevelt, Perkins, and the corporate lawyers and law professors who worked for the National Labor Relations Board. These were people who believed through long experience that unions were a safe and sensible method for dealing with workers. And from the point of view of moderate and liberal corporate lawyers, the act had a very respectable regulatory pedigree that had worked well for the corporate community in the past, including the Interstate Commerce Commission, the Federal Trade Commission, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and the Railroad Labor Board. From an historical perspective, the New Deal's collective bargaining legislation "gathered up the historical threads and wove them into law" (Bernstein 1950, p. 18).