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*On this date in 1935, the Wagner Act was passed into law. This was a foundational statute of United States labor law which guarantees the right of private sector employees to organize into trade unions, engage in collective bargaining, and take collective action such as strikes.
The Wagner Act harmed Blacks by making labor union monopolies legal, a Jim Crow for employment. Economists Thomas E. Hall and J. David Ferguson explained: “By encouraging unionization, the Wagner Act raised the number of insiders (those with jobs) who had the incentive and ability to exclude outsiders (those without jobs). Once high wages have been negotiated, employers are less likely to hire outsiders, and thus the insiders could protect their own interest.”
By giving labor unions the monopoly power to exclusively represent employees in a workplace, the Wagner Act had the effect of excluding Blacks, since the dominant unions discriminated against Blacks. The Wagner Act had originally been drafted with a provision prohibiting racial discrimination. But the American Federation of Labor successfully lobbied against it, and it was dropped. AFL unions used their new power, granted by the Wagner Act, to exclude Blacks on a large scale. Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. DuBois, and Marcus Garvey were all critical of compulsory unionism.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal, for instance, has been hailed for its lofty goals of reforming the American economy and helping the under-privileged. Yet mounting evidence, developed by dozens of economists across the country, shows that the New Deal prolonged joblessness for millions, and Black people were especially hard hit.