Newlands Labor Act

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The Newlands Labor Act, was a 1913 United States federal law, sponsored by Senator Francis G. Newlands of Nevada and drafted by Bureau of Labor Statistics Commissioner Charles Patrick Neill. It created the Board of Mediation and Conciliation (BMC). The BMC was a precursor to today's National Mediation Board (NMB).


In response to railroad strikes during the 1870s and 1880s,[1] Congress passed the Arbitration Act of 1888, which authorized the creation of arbitration panels with the power to investigate the causes of labor disputes and to issue non-binding arbitration awards.[2] The Act was a complete failure: only one panel was ever convened under the Act, and that one, in the case of the 1894 Pullman Strike, issued its report only after the strike had been crushed by a federal court injunction backed by federal troops.

Congress attempted to correct these shortcomings in the Erdman Act, passed in 1898.[3] This law likewise provided for voluntary arbitration, but made any award issued by the panel binding and enforceable in federal court. It also outlawed discrimination against employees for union activities, prohibited "yellow dog" contracts (employee agrees not to join a union while employed), and required both sides to maintain the status quo during any arbitration proceedings and for three months after an award was issued. The arbitration procedures were rarely used.

Newlands Act and the BMC[edit]

President Woodrow Wilson signed the Newlands Act on July 15, 1913.[4] The law created the Board of Mediation and Conciliation, which was administered by U.S. Commerce and District Court Judge Martin Augustine Knapp and assisted by U.S. Alabama District Court Judge and Commissioner William Lea Chambers. The Board adjusted and arbitrated disputes between railroad companies and their operating employees, where those disputes threatened to interrupt operation of the carriers to the "serious detriment of the public interest." Voluntary arbitration was also provided for those disputes that could not be settled by mediation.

The Board was functionally replaced on December 26, 1917, by the creation of the United States Railroad Administration, although it continued to exist with its activities restricted to short-line railroads. In 1920, the Esch–Cummins Act (formally called the Transportation Act) created a new Railroad Labor Board which regulated wages and settled disputes, and permanently replaced the duties of the BMC.[5]

On May 20, 1926, Congress repealed the Newlands Labor Act and Title III of the Esch–Cummins Act (which pertained to labor disputes), with the enactment of the Railway Labor Act.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ See, for example, Great Railroad Strike of 1877.
  2. ^ Arbitration Act of 1888, 25 Stat. 501, October 1, 1888.
  3. ^ Erdman Act of 1898, June 1, 1898, ch. 370, 30 Stat. 424.
  4. ^ United States. Newlands Act, July 15, 1913, ch. 6, 38 Stat. 103.
  5. ^ Esch–Cummins Act, Pub.L. 66-152, 41 Stat. 456. Approved 1920-02-28.
  6. ^ Railway Labor Act, 44 Stat. 577. Approved 1926-05-20. 45 U.S.C. § 151 et seq.