Development of Public Policy in Labor Relations
Earlier, in the discussion of the history of American trade unionism, the evolutionary stages of public regulation of labor relations were outlined. Prior to the 1930s, the courts were the dominant force in the determination of labor law. With only a few exceptions, the era was generally hostile to the activities of organized labor. With the passage of the Wagner Act in 1935 and the successful sustainment of its constitutionality in 1937, the federal government reversed itself. A climate of overt support for trade union activities was created. By 1947, with the enactment of the Taft-Hartley Act, the role of government changed again and gave countervailing rights and powers to employers and society. Govemment's role became that of the regulator of the activities of both labor and management. Statutory law became the instrument through which the public interest was manifested. In 1959, the Landrum-Griffin Act greatly increased the regulatory role of the federal government. Thus, as Thomas Kochan has observed, the combined effect of federal labor legislation from 1935 through 1959 was "to elevate the status of collective bargaining to new heights in our society."1 Indeed, as he notes, "collective bargaining was transformed into the preferred mechanism for determining wages, hours, and other terms of employment" in the private sector of the economy.2 During the 1960s, a series of presidential executive orders extended collective bargaining to public employees in the federal sector. Since then, a number of states have enacted legislation that extended collective bargaining to public employees in their jurisdictions.
Yet by the late 1970s, there were signs that the momentum of legislative support for collective bargaining was waning. As will be discussed shortly, in 1978 a major legislative effort to strengthen the workers' ability to organize was defeated through____________________