1932 March 23

Organized Labor Gains First Amendment Rights


Also known as the anti-Injunction law, the Norris-LaGuardia Act enacted on this day was the first important legislative victory for organized labor. The law barred federal courts from issuing injunctions against labor union organizing, which had been the principal anti-labor tactic of the 1920s. Injunctions often barred union organizers from picketing or even talking about unions and strikes. (The most important injunction of the 1920s involved one against a nationwide railroad workers strike on September 1, 1922.) The new law also barred “yellow dog” contracts, which required job applicants to sign a promise to not join a labor union as a condition of employment.

The more important Wagner Act, which President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed into law on July 5, 1935, guaranteed workers the right to join “unions of their own choosing,” and placed organized labor on a solid footing in the U.S. for the first time in American history.

Read the classic study of labor injunctions: Felix Frankfurter and Nathan Greene, The Labor Injunction (1930)

Hear Pete Seeger sing the famous labor song, Which Side Are You On?: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=msEYGql0drc

Read: Howard Zinn, La Guardia in Congress (1959)

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