Wagner Act

The Wagner Act refers to the 1935 American federal statute that recognized employee rights to collective bargaining. The Wagner Act protected the right for employees to join and belong to a union, prohibited many anti-union methods then utilized by employers. In addition, the Wagner Act organized the National Labor Relations Board, otherwise known as the NLRB. The NLRB was given lots of enforcement powers.

Additional Sources


(1935) Labour legislation passed by the U.S. Congress. Sponsored by Sen. Robert F. Wagner, the act protected workers' rights to form unions and to bargain collectively. A three-member National Labor Relations Board was established to protect against unfair labour practices; it could order elections to allow workers to choose which union they wanted to represent them. The act also prohibited employers from engaging in unfair labour practices such as setting up a company union and firing or otherwise discriminating against workers who organized or joined unions. The act, considered the most important piece of labour legislation in the 20th century, helped ensure union support for Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1936 election.

Duhaime Legal Dictionary

A 1935 American federal statute which recognized employee rights to collective bargaining, protected the right to belong to a union, prohibited many anti-union tactics then used by employers, and set up the National Labor Relations Board.

Lect Law Library

By far the most important labor legislation of the 1930s was the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) of 1935, more popularly known as the Wagner Act, after its sponsor, Sen. Robert F. Wagner (NY-D). This law included reenactment of the previously invalidated labor sections of the NRA as well as a number of additions.

The Free (Legal) Dictionary

The Wagner Act, also known as the National Labor Relations Act of 1935 (29 U.S.C.A. § 151 et seq.), is the most important piece of labor legislation enacted in U.S. history. It made the federal government the arbiter of employer-employee relations through the creation of the national labor relations board (NLRB) and recognized for the first time the right of workers to organize and bargain collectively with their employers. The act overturned decades of court decisions that asserted that labor unions violated an employee's liberty of contract.

Senator robert f. wagner, a Democrat from New York, introduced the legislation in 1935, when the United States was in the midst of the Great Depression. President franklin d. roosevelt initially opposed the legislation out of fear that labor organizing might interfere with economic recovery, but gave his support when passage became inevitable.

Congress based its right to pass national labor-management legislation on the U.S. Con stitution's Commerce Clause. The act states that unequal bargaining power between employees and employers leads to economic instability, whereas the refusal of employers to recognize the right to bargain collectively leads to strikes. Because these disturbances impede the flow of interstate commerce, Congress may take steps to continue the free flow of commerce by encouraging Collective Bargaining and unionizing.

The Wagner Act established the rights of employees to organize, join, or aid labor unions and to participate in collective bargaining through their representatives. The act also authorized unions to take "concerted action" for these purposes. This meant that workers could lawfully strike and take other peaceful action as a way of placing pressure on an employer. This provision was coupled with another that prohibited employers from engaging in unfair labor practices that interfere with the union rights of employees. Unfair labor practices include prohibiting employees from joining unions, firing employees because of their union membership, or establishing a company-dominated union. In addition to requiring employers to bargain col lectively with the union duly selected by the employees, the act set up procedures for establishing appropriate bargaining units (homoge neous groups of employees) where employees can elect a bargaining agent (a representative for labor negotiations) by a secret ballot.


The National Labor Relations Act (or Wagner Act, after Robert F. Wagner) is a 1935 United States federal law that limits the means with which employers may react to workers in the private sector that create labor unions, engage in collective bargaining, and take part in strikes and other forms of concerted activity in support of their demands. The Act does not, on the other hand, cover those workers who are covered by the Railway Labor Act, agricultural employees, domestic employees, supervisors, federal state or local government workers, independent contractors and some close relatives of individual employers.