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National War Labor Board

National War Labor Board

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The National War Labor Board (NWLB) was a federal agency created in April 1918 by President
A president is a leader of an organization, company, trade union, university, or country.Etymologically, a president is one who presides, who sits in leadership...

 Woodrow Wilson
Woodrow Wilson
Thomas Woodrow Wilson was the 28th President of the United States, from 1913 to 1921. A leader of the Progressive Movement, he served as President of Princeton University from 1902 to 1910, and then as the Governor of New Jersey from 1911 to 1913...

. It was composed of twelve representatives from business and labor, and co-chaired by Former President William Howard Taft
William Howard Taft
William Howard Taft was the 27th President of the United States and later the tenth Chief Justice of the United States...

. Its purpose was to arbitrate disputes between workers and employers in order to ensure labor reliability and productivity during the war. It was disbanded after the war in May, 1919.


The decisions of the NWLB generally supported and strengthened the position of labor. Although it opposed the disruption of war production by strikes, it supported an eight-hour day for workers, equal pay for women, and the right to organize unions and bargain collectively. Although the NWLB did not have any coercive enforcement power, public opinion and support from President Wilson generally ensured compliance with its decisions.

In general, the relative strength of organized labor in America grew substantially during the war. Union membership almost doubled after the formation of the NWLB. Of note, the AFL membership rose from 2 million in 1916 to 3.2 million in 1919. By the end of the decade
A decade is a period of 10 years. The word is derived from the Ancient Greek dekas which means ten. This etymology is sometime confused with the Latin decas and dies , which is not correct....

, 15% of the nonagricultural work force was unionized.


The twelve members of the board were:
  • William Howard Taft
    William Howard Taft
    William Howard Taft was the 27th President of the United States and later the tenth Chief Justice of the United States...

  • Francis Patrick Walsh, first head of the Commission on Industrial Relations
    Commission on Industrial Relations
    The Commission on Industrial Relations was a commission created by the U.S. Congress on August 23, 1912. The commission studied work conditions throughout the industrial United States between 1913 and 1915...

    , both representing the public
  • Frank Hayes, President of the United Mine Workers
    United Mine Workers
    The United Mine Workers of America is a North American labor union best known for representing coal miners and coal technicians. Today, the Union also represents health care workers, truck drivers, manufacturing workers and public employees in the United States and Canada...

  • Thomas Savage of the International Association of Machinists
    International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers
    The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers is an AFL-CIO/CLC trade union representing approx. 646,933 workers as of 2006 in more than 200 industries.-Formation and early history:...

  • William Hutcheson
    William Hutcheson
    William Hutcheson was the leader of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America from 1915 until 1952. A conservative craft unionist, he opposed the organization of workers in mass production industries such as steel and automobile manufacturing into industrial unions...

     of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America
    United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America
    The United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America is one of the largest building trades union in the United States. One of the unions that formed the American Federation of Labor in 1886, it left the AFL-CIO in 2001.-Early years:...

  • Victor Olander of the International Seamen's Union
    International Seamen's Union
    The International Seamen's Union was an American maritime trade union which operated from 1892 until 1937. In its last few years, the union effectively split into the National Maritime Union and Seafarer's International Union.-The early years:...

  • Thomas A. Rickert, President of the United Garment Workers
    United Garment Workers
    The United Garment Workers of America was a trade union formed in New York in April 1891, an affiliate of the American Federation of Labor....

  • L.F. Loree, President of the Delaware and Hudson Railway
    Delaware and Hudson Railway
    The Delaware and Hudson Railway is a railroad that operates in the northeastern United States. Since 1991 it has been a subsidiary of the Canadian Pacific Railway, although CPR has assumed all operations and the D&H does not maintain any locomotives or rolling stock.It was formerly an important...

  • C. Edwin Michael, former official of the National Association of Manufacturers
    National Association of Manufacturers
    The National Association of Manufacturers is an advocacy group headquartered in Washington, D.C. with 10 additional offices across the country...

  • Loyall A. Osborne, Vice President of Westinghouse
    Westinghouse Electric (1886)
    Westinghouse Electric was an American manufacturing company. It was founded in 1886 as Westinghouse Electric Company and later renamed Westinghouse Electric Corporation by George Westinghouse. The company purchased CBS in 1995 and became CBS Corporation in 1997...

  • W.H. van Dervoort, an East Moline, Illinois
    East Moline, Illinois
    East Moline is a city in Rock Island County, Illinois, United States. The population was 20,333 at the 2000 census. East Moline is one of the five Quad Cities,, along with the cities of Rock Island, Moline, and the Iowa cities of Davenport and Bettendorf. The Quad Cities has a population of 379,690...

  • B.L. Worden, head of the Electric Boat Company

New National War Labor Board

The National War Labor Board was reestablished by President
A president is a leader of an organization, company, trade union, university, or country.Etymologically, a president is one who presides, who sits in leadership...

 Franklin D. Roosevelt
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Franklin Delano Roosevelt , also known by his initials, FDR, was the 32nd President of the United States and a central figure in world events during the mid-20th century, leading the United States during a time of worldwide economic crisis and world war...

, on January 12, 1942 under the chairmanship of William Hammatt Davis
William Hammatt Davis
William Hammatt Davis was the Chairman of the War Labor Board in the administration of President Franklin Roosevelt, where his job was keeping industrial peace between management and labor. He was also appointed US Economic Stabilizer in the last months of World War II, though Roosevelt's...

. It became a tripartite body and was charged with acting as an arbitration tribunal in labor-management dispute cases, thereby preventing work stoppages which might hinder the war effort. It administered wage control in national industries such as automobiles, shipping
Shipping has multiple meanings. It can be a physical process of transporting commodities and merchandise goods and cargo, by land, air, and sea. It also can describe the movement of objects by ship.Land or "ground" shipping can be by train or by truck...

, railways, airlines, telegraph lines, and mining
Mining is the extraction of valuable minerals or other geological materials from the earth, from an ore body, vein or seam. The term also includes the removal of soil. Materials recovered by mining include base metals, precious metals, iron, uranium, coal, diamonds, limestone, oil shale, rock...


The Board was originally divided into 12 Regional Administrative Boards which handled both labor dispute settlement and wage stabilization functions for specific geographic regions. The National Board further decentralized in 1943, when it established special tripartite commissions and panels to deal with specific industries on a national base. It ceased operating in 1946, and thereafter labor disputes were handled by the National Labor Relations Board
National Labor Relations Board
The National Labor Relations Board is an independent agency of the United States government charged with conducting elections for labor union representation and with investigating and remedying unfair labor practices. Unfair labor practices may involve union-related situations or instances of...

, originally set up in 1935. Until its demise on 31 May 1919, the board ruled on 1,245 cases. Almost 90 percent of them sprang from worker complaints, and five skilled trades accounted for 45 percent. Of the cases, 591 were dismissed, 315 were referred to other federal labor agencies, and 520 resulted in formal awards or findings. In reaching their decisions the board was aided by an office and investigative staff of 250 people. Approximately 700,000 workers in 1,000 establishments were directly affected.

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