Revitalizing Industrial Relations as an Academic Enterprise
Edited by Charles J. Whalen
Chapter 6: Industrial Relations and the Law
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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