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Today in Labor History

Nov. 22, 1963 President John F. Kennedy is assassinated. Generally considered a friend of labor, Kennedy a year earlier had issued Executive Order 10988, which authorized unionization and a limited form of collective bargaining rights for most federal workers (excluding the Department of Defense). Many states followed the example set by Kennedy.
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Summary of The Workplace Democracy Act
Posted On: Oct 07, 2015

The policy of the United States is "to protect the exercise by workers of full freedom of association, self-organization, and designation of representatives of their own choosing, for the purpose of negotiating the terms and conditions of their employment or other mutual aid or protection." But current law effectively denies these fundamental rights to tens of millions of Americans.

As a result, we are falling behind our industrial competitors in many significant ways. Our real wages, once the highest in the world, have fallen below the levels of the early 1970s. Our manufacturing sector is in sharp decline, as large corporations move production facilities to underdeveloped countries to take advantage of exploitative wages and minimal environmental and safety standards.

The Workplace Democracy Act strengthens the federal laws designed to protect workers and close the legal loopholes which now deprive working people of their right to organize on behalf of their wages, their benefits and their working conditions. By amending the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) and the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), and by establishing a National Public Employment Relations Commission, The Workplace Democracy Act provides a vehicle to achieve a comprehensive reform of American labor law.

Main Provisions

Establishes card checkoff recognition. Once a majority of workers has declared its wish to be organized by conducting an election or by signing membership cards, legal recognition shall be given to their designated representative.

Guarantees the right to first contract. If by 45 days after certification, no collective bargaining agreement has been reached, the union then has the right to binding arbitration.

Strengthens and expands the enforcement authority of the National Labor Relations Board. Violations of labor law are violations of law, and must be both speedily prosecuted and remedied. Current penalties for violating the National Labor Relations Act are insufficient to serve as effective deterrents. The Workplace Democracy Act strengthens NLRB enforcement in the following ways:

  • Instructs the National Labor Relations Board to use its injunctive power whenever it finds an unfair labor practice.
  • Gives employees wronged due to such violations the right to be "made whole" for any economic losses they incur as a result.
  • Requires immediate reinstatement of discharged employees when unlawfully discharged.
  • Provides for treble (3x) back pay for employees who suffer economic hardship due to unfair labor practices.
  • Requires debarment of companies from Federal Government contracts for willful unfair labor practices.
  • Requires the National Labor Relations Board to assess civil penalties of not less than $10,000 against employers for each willful violation of the Act.


Repeals the prohibitions against strikes, boycotts and hot cargo agreements. Taft-Hartley provisions that prohibit one group of workers from engaging in actions in sympathy or concert with other groups of workers are eliminated, as well as the Landrum-Griffin Amendment that prohibits "hot cargo" agreements (when an employer and a union agree to refrain from handling any products of any other employer). The right to common situs picketing is thereby restored as well.

Prohibits state preemption of federal labor laws. Repeals Section 14(b) of the Taft-Hartley Act, concerning "right to work" laws. All workers shall enjoy the rights guaranteed them under federal law, regardless of where they live.

Secures equal treatment for all employees. Repeals the exclusion of plant guards from bargaining units with other employees where they work.

Ensures equal protection under the law for state and local public sector employees. Establishes the National Public Employment Relations Commission to ensure that public sector employees of states, territories, possessions or political subdivisions thereof, are guaranteed the right to collective bargaining, to binding arbitration, and to strike. Establishes a mandatory impasse procedure for public safety officers and fire fighters.

Provides workers the right to act as guarantors of their financial future. Provides for workers to serve as trustees on pension plans which cover their retirement.

Extends NLRA coverage to workers for U.S. owned companies that operate in Free Trade Agreement countries. Gives workers in countries that are party to a Free Trade Agreement with the United States the right to file unfair labor practice complaints against the United States owned parent company of their employer either under the NLRA or under the laws and procedures of that country.










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Updated: Nov. 22 (08:05)

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