State-Level Origins of the United States Labor Relations Order
44 Pages Posted: 11 Jul 2015
Date Written: July 10, 2015
Why did the United States adopt its labor laws? The extant federal laws have undergone little substantive change since 1959, and are mainly intact from the 1947 Taft-Hartley amendments to the 1935 Wagner Act. This paper goes back to the Wagner to Taft-Hartley period to ask why some states adopted precursor laws to Taft-Hartley while others did not. These states are valuable and understudied sites of investigation in the development of the United States labor relations order. A key lesson of the state-level experience during the 1930s and 1940s is that Congress of Industrial Organization (CIO) density and militance are linked with the adoption of restrictive labor laws. These laws were adopted because they served to restrain organized worker resistance in the form of strikes. The resultant decline in efficacious militance led to the present political canalization of American labor unions. In this paper, I construct a unique dataset of state-level characteristics and laws from 1936 to 1948 and deploy penalized maximum likelihood logistic regression to evaluate standard American Political Development theories of New Deal policy change. Labor militance is found to be a strong predictor of restrictive law adoption. My findings suggest that extant explanations give short shrift to CIO disruption-backlash in the states in explaining the crystallizing of the long-running and extant labor law. This paper is of interest to students of New Deal policy, the development of the United States labor relations order, and American Political Development generally.
Keywords: APD, unions, strikes, labor relations, New Deal, labor politics
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