National War Labor Board

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The National War Labor Board (NWLB) was a United States federal agency created in two different incarnations, the first by President Woodrow Wilson from 1918–19 during World War I and the second by President Franklin D. Roosevelt from 1942–45 during World War II. In both cases the board's purpose was to arbitrate disputes between workers and employers in order to ensure labor reliability and productivity during the war.

National War Labor Board (World War I)
NWLB-WWI
Agency overview
Formed April 8, 1918
Dissolved May 31, 1919
Superseding agencies
Jurisdiction Federal government of the United States
Headquarters Washington, D.C.
Employees 250
Agency executive
Parent agency Executive Office of the President
National War Labor Board (World War II)
NWLB-WWII
Agency overview
Formed January 12, 1942
Preceding agencies
Dissolved December 31, 1945
Superseding agencies
Jurisdiction Federal government of the United States
Headquarters Washington, D.C.
Agency executive
Parent agency Executive Office of the President

First incarnation[edit]

History[edit]

The board began operations on April 8, 1918, after Wilson's action. It was composed of twelve representatives from business and labor, and co-chaired by former President William Howard Taft.

The decisions of the NWLB generally supported and strengthened the position of labor. Although it opposed the disruption of war production by strikes, it supported an eight-hour day for workers, equal pay for women, and the right to organize unions and bargain collectively. Although the NWLB did have any coercive enforcement power, Wilson generally ensured compliance with its decisions.

In general, the relative strength of organized labor in America grew substantially during the war. Union membership almost doubled after the formation of the NWLB. Of note, the AFL membership rose from 2 million in 1916 to 3.2 million in 1919. By the end of the decade, 15 percent of the nonagricultural work force was unionized.

In all, the board ruled on 1,245 cases. Almost 90 percent of them sprang from worker complaints, and five skilled trades accounted for 45 percent. Of the cases, 591 were dismissed, 315 were referred to other federal labor agencies, and 520 resulted in formal awards or findings. In reaching decisions, the board was aided by an office and investigative staff of 250 people. Approximately 700,000 workers in 1,000 establishments were directly affected.

The board was disbanded on May 31, 1919, some six and a half months after the war's close.

Membership[edit]

The twelve members of the board were:[1]

Second incarnation[edit]

History[edit]

The National War Labor Board was reestablished by President Franklin Roosevelt under the chairmanship of William Hammatt Davis. It was reestablished by Executive Order 9017 on January 12, 1942.[2] It became a tripartite body and was charged with acting as an arbitration tribunal in labor-management dispute cases, thereby preventing work stoppages which might hinder the war effort. It administered wage control in national industries such as automobiles, shipping, railways, airlines, telegraph lines, and mining.

The Board was originally divided into twelve Regional Administrative Boards which handled both labor dispute settlement and wage stabilization functions for specific geographic regions. The National Board further decentralized in 1943, when it established special tripartite commissions and panels to deal with specific industries on a national basis.

President Harry Truman issued Executive Order 9672 ceasing the National War Labor Board operations on December 31, 1945, some four months after the war's close.[3] Labor disputes were thereafter handled by the National Labor Relations Board, originally set up in 1935.

Membership[edit]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Encyclopedia of U.S. labor and working-class history, Volume 1 By Eric Arnesen, page 985
  2. ^ Peters, Gerhard; Woolley, John T. "Franklin D. Roosevelt: "Executive Order 9017 - Establishing the National War Labor Board," January 12, 1942". The American Presidency Project. University of California - Santa Barbara. 
  3. ^ Peters, Gerhard; Woolley, John T. "Harry S. Truman: "Executive Order 9672 - Establishing the National Wage Stabilization Board and Terminating the National War Labor Board," December 31, 1945". The American Presidency Project. University of California - Santa Barbara. 

References[edit]

  • Atleson, James B. Labor and the Wartime State: Labor Relations and Law During World War II. Urbana, Ill.: University of Illinois Press, 1998. ISBN 0-252-06674-X
  • Foner, Philip S. History of the Labor Movement in the United States. Vol. 7: Labor and World War I, 1914-1918. New York: International Publishers, 1987. Cloth ISBN 0-7178-0638-3; Paperback ISBN 0-7178-0627-8
  • Montgomery, David. The Fall of the House of Labor: The Workplace, the State, and American Labor Activism, 1865-1925. New York: Press Syndicate of the University of Cambridge, 1987. ISBN 0-521-22579-5
  • Taft, Philip. The A.F. of L. in the Time of Gompers. Hardback reprint. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1957. ISBN 0-374-97734-8

External links[edit]