New Directions in the Study of Work and Employment

New Directions in the Study of Work and Employment

Revitalizing Industrial Relations as an Academic Enterprise

Edited by Charles J. Whalen

Charles Whalen’s book identifies avenues leading to the revitalization of industrial relations as an academic discipline. The contributors, a stellar assemblage of the field’s leading scholars, demonstrate there is much work to be done: the scope and intellectual content of industrial relations need to be reconsidered; academic and social institutions must be reshaped; and new conceptual and practical issues demand attention.

Chapter 6: Industrial Relations and the Law

William B. Gould IV

Subjects: business and management, human resource management, economics and finance, labour economics


William B. Gould IV INTRODUCTION The American system of labor law has emerged from a period of common law, criminal law, and antitrust regulation that repressed labor organizations or ‘combinations’ of workers. This was followed by a period of laissez-faire, designed to promote freedom of association, and then the bedrock of the American labor law system, the National Labor Relations Act of 1935 (NLRA), which forms the basis for regulation of collective bargaining in the private sector. While the statute has many coverage exclusions, paradoxically, the NLRA has ousted state regulation of labor-management relations in the private sector through the judicially created doctrine of preemption.1 The NLRA’s exclusions are manifold, the public sector as well as farm workers being foremost among them. The system of collective bargaining in the public sector is regulated by statutes at the federal, state and local level, which are based upon the NLRA, in substantial part, as well as decisions issued under that statute. The Railway Labor Act covers employees in the railway and airline industries. There are still other exclusions. All levels of supervisors are also excluded in the private sector (this is not the case in the public sector generally) and, through statutory interpretation, such individuals as managerial and confidential employees, graduate teaching assistants at private universities as well as university professors are also beyond the reach of the law. Undocumented workers are deprived of effective remedies. At the same time, professional athletes who rely upon both collective bargaining and individual...

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