National Labor Relations Board

The National Labor Relations Board, also known as the “NLRB,” is an agency within the United States government that is responsible for solving issues related to unfair labor practices. The agency also elects labor union representatives and ensures that industries follow the laws set by the National Labor Relations Act. To explore this concept, consider the following National Labor Relations Board definition.

Definition of National Labor Relations Board


  1. Governmental agency in charge of overseeing labor practices.


Established by President Theodore Roosevelt on July 5, 1935

National Labor Relations Act

Congress created the National Labor Relations Act, or NLRA, in 1935. The act aims at regulating labor and management practices that occur in the private sector. In order to achieve this goal, the NLRB was established for the purpose of enforcement. Under the Act, employees are guaranteed specific rights including:

  • The right to unionize
  • The right to strike
  • The right to participate in collective bargaining without fear of retaliation

The Act also outlines the unfair labor practices and illegal labor practices. For instance, the Act specifics that employers cannot legally discriminate against employees that engage in union activities, and outlines procedures for selecting union representatives.

History of the NLRB

The NLRB dates back to the National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933, but at the time, the agency was called the National Recovery Administration, or the “NRA.” When the act was implemented, its goal was to protect the collective bargaining rights of union workers. However, shortly after the act was put in place, union strikes, union and employer violence, and violent protests began. The administration strongly believed that the act did not need enforcement, but the unrest among the labor unions proved otherwise.

In response, President Franklin D. Roosevelt created the National Labor Board to oversee the collective bargaining process, holding hearings, and resolving disputes. When created, the board established 20 different regions to handle the immense case load. Within a year, Congress realized that the National Labor Board was just as ineffective as the NRA and they created Public Resolution No. 44 to combat the issue. This resolution enabled the president to appoint new board members with the authority to hold elections, issue subpoenas, and resolve labor disputes. This in turn, abolished the NLB and established the National Labor Relations Board. The first chair member of the NLRB was Lloyd K. Garrison.

Lloyd K. Garrison

Lloyd K. Garrison, born in 1897, graduated from St. Paul’s college prep school in New Hampshire before obtaining both a Bachelor’s degree from Harvard University, and a law degree from Harvard Law School. Garrison went on to become a prominent attorney and a staunch advocate in the fight against racial discrimination. Having gained the attention of President Herbert Hoover, Garrison was appointed to serve as special assistant to the U.S. Attorney General. After the abolishment of the NLB, Garrison was appointed by President Roosevelt to chair the newly created NLRB. While he only served on the board for four short months, he led the board in the landmark case of Houde Engineering Corp., 1 NLRB 87 (1934).

Houde Engineering Corp., 1 NLRB 87 (1934)

The NLB had ruled that a company having union laborers was obligated to deal directly with the representative “selected by a majority of those voting,” and that any agreement reached in those dealings must apply to all union employees of the company. Houde Engineering, which manufactured automobile parts, rejected the jurisdiction of the NLB, taking the position that the company had no obligation to deal with any representative from the union until the names of the employees who had voted for the representative were disclosed. On March 8, 1934, the NLRB ruled that a secret ballot vote was the best method to choose a representative, and that the company could not require disclosure of the names.

NLRB Staff and Location

As of 2015, the NLRB is headquartered in Washington, D.C. and it has offices throughout the United States. The President of the United States appoints all members of the agency, which consists of a five-person board and a general counsel. The appointed members must then be approved by a majority vote in the Senate. Each board member is given a five-year term, and is assigned specific duties. For example, the General Council members act as prosecutors, while the members of the board act as the judicial body.

Duties of the NLRB

The NLRB has a plethora of duties including safeguarding the rights of employees around the country. The agency also ensures that unions are fairly represented. Other duties include:

  • Providing legal representation for private-sector employees organizing collective bargaining units.
  • Providing legal representation for private-sector employees dissolving labor unions through elections.
  • Investigating reports made to the NLRB by employees, employers, or union representatives, that their rights have been violated.
  • Mediating disputes between parties to help them avoid litigation.
  • Deciding cases that cannot be resolved through regular mediation.
  • Enforcing orders issued by the agency or that are in accordance with the National Relations Labor Act. This includes seeking enforcement through the judicial system if need be.

Related Legal Terms and Issues

  • Authority – The right or power to make decisions, give orders, or to control something or someone.
  • Union – An association of workers formed in order to protect the rights of employees.
  • Collective Bargaining – A negotiation process that takes place between employers and employees with a goal of agreeing on working conditions.
  • Majority – A number larger than half of the total.
  • Mediation – A meeting between two conflicting parties in order to reach an agreement.
  • Prosecutor – A person or member who brings about legal proceedings against another person or entity.