WASHINGTON -- President Roosevelt today signed the Wagner labor relations bill into law and said, "it should serve as an important step toward the achievement of just and peaceful labor relations in industry."
He cautioned, however, that successful operation of the new law, guaranteeing labor the right to organize for collective bargaining, would require, "a sense of sober responsibility and of willing cooperation" on the part of management, labor and the public.
The President emphasized that its purpose is to protect labor in organizing and in bargaining. He said, "it may eventually eliminate one major cause of labor disputes, but it will not stop all labor disputes." The new quasi-judicial Labor Relations Board, which will enforce the law, will not act as a mediator or conciliator. That work will remain in the Labor Department.
"It is important that the judicial function and the mediation function should not be confused," the President said. "Compromise, the essence of mediation, has no place in the interpretation of the law."
Mr. Roosevelt also pointed out that the law, "is applicable only when violation of the legal right of independent self-organization would burden or obstruct interstate commerce."
The scope of the law's, application, under that broad restriction, remains uncertain. Some lawyers contend that in view of the Supreme Court's NRA decision it would be limited to a comparatively few industries of clear interstate commerce. Others contend it would embrace a wide field.
Industry is expected to institute early test cases to bring a Supreme Court ruling.
Alone When He Signs
The President was alone in his study when he signed the bill, which he described as designed to develop, "a better relationship between between labor and management."
He used two pens. One he will give to Senator Robert F. Wagner, (D., N.Y.), sponsor of the act. The other will go to William Green, president of the American Federation of Labor.
Shortly after signature of the bill, the President's views regarding it were made known in a formal statement.
Sought by labor for two years the bill was rushed through Congress by large majorities following downfall of the NRA codes, which left Section 7A inoperative.
Seeks to Protect Labor
In an effort to protect labor in organizing and bargaining collectively, the act defines the following "unfair labor practices" and sets up a three-member national labor relations board charged with seeing that employers do not indulge in them:
1 -- Domination of or interference with the formation of unions.
2 -- Interference with employes in organizing and bargaining collectively.
3 -- Discrimination against workers for union membership, or discrimination against an employe for filing charges against his employer.
4 -- Refusal to bargain collectively with employes' representatives.
5 -- Coercion of workers in organizing and bargaining.
The law provides that the privilege of presenting grievances to an employer shall be given to any individual employe or group of workers.
Board Has Wide Powers
In event of alleged violations of the law, the board is empowered to hold hearings, summon witnesses and subpena records. If it finds an employer has indulged in one of the forbidden practices, the board would issue a "cease and desist" order similar to those of the Federal Trade Commission. If the order was ignored, the board would carry it to the courts for enforcement. -
The board will be independent of any executive department. It is empowered to hold elections in case of disagreement or uncertainty as to choice of collective bargaining representatives. The law provides that once the representatives of a majority of the workers are determined, they shall represent all the employes in that bargaining unit.
Senate and House conferees when completing action on the measure, eliminated a House amendment which would have prevented a bargaining unit from being composed of employes of more than one employer.
Not a Mediation Agency
The board will not be a mediation or arbitration agency. That is, if during the course of bargaining dispute over wages or hours leads to a strike or other trouble, the board cannot intervene. Adjustment of such disputes will continue to be handled by the Labor Department mediation service.
Advocates of the new law, however, contend that it will eliminate many basic causes of labor strife, such as disputes over the right to organize, union membership, or alleged discrimination against union members.
The board will replace the temporary labor board now headed by Francis Biddle, which was kept in office by presidential action following the NRA decision which left the old board powerless. It has been reported that Mr. Biddle may head the new agency.