The Wagner Act’s Impact on Workers’ Rights

Wagner Act was adopted in 1935 and was one of the most important labor acts that were passed during the 20th century. The Act was the product of the effort of Senator Robert F. Wagner, who believed that lower-income groups should be provided with economic security and safety (FDR and the Wagner Act, n.d.). He was the main promoter of the law, and that is why the National Labor Relations Act is called in honor of him. Passed in 1935, the Act gave the majority of the private sector employees the right to join labor unions and organize (Carrell & Heavrin, 2013). Thus the workers got an opportunity to collectively present their interests and express their opinion.

Wagner Act remained the major piece of labor legislation in the United States for more than ten years, and the impact it had on the workers’ relationships with each other and the employers is great. The employees had the chance to make their voices heard and collectively resolve the work-related issues with the help of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which primarily consisted of three members (NLRB, n.d.). Later its number was extended to five and ensured the legitimacy of the requirements labor unions made to the employers. However, Wagner Act influenced the rights of workers not in all sectors, as the agricultural and domestic workers could not organize collectively or join labor unions.

The Act, however, not only let the workers organize unions and alliances but also protected them from unfair labor practices that employers often launched. The law prohibited them from firing the workers without fair reasons or discriminating them by any characteristic (FDR and the Wagner Act, n.d.). The law was quite often criticized since it took into account mostly the rights of the workers but not those of the employer. However, in the 1930th the lower-income workers were among the most unprotected society group that had neither economic security nor legal protection. That is why the law was so welcomed by the workers and acknowledged legitimate by the US Supreme Court.

The adoption of the Wagner Act was an important event for American history because it was among the first ones in the field of workers’ rights’ protection, so it created the legal base for further laws. Apart from that, the Act improved the relations between workers and employers and prevented the latter from economic or labor violence towards the former. In addition, the more tense cooperation of employers and employees helped the workers participate more in the decision-making procedures in the factories they worked (Carrell & Heavrin, 2013). Thus, it was hard for the employers to make important decisions without informing the labor union.

The Wagner Act was the major law that regulated the relationships of workers and employers for twelve years, till 1947, when the Labor-Management Relations Act was adopted. Its influence was significantly weakened by the new law since it restricted the worker’s rights and freedoms (Carrell & Heavrin, 2013). For instance, the number and definition of unfair practices were narrowed, or the arrangement making the union membership a compulsory condition for further employment was prohibited. However, despite new restrictions and other amendments that followed the Wagner Act significantly influenced the labor legislation in the United States because it gave the workers the right to organize and protected them from economic instability.


Carrel, M. R. & Heavrin, C. (2013). Labor relations and collective bargaining. Pearson.

FDR and the Wagner Act (n.d.). FDR Library & Museum. Web.

NLRB (n.d.). 1935 passage of the Wagner Act. NLRB. Web.

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1. LawBirdie. "The Wagner Act’s Impact on Workers’ Rights." May 28, 2023.


LawBirdie. "The Wagner Act’s Impact on Workers’ Rights." May 28, 2023.