What Is the History of the National War Labor Board?


Quick Answer

The National War Labor Board, or NWLB, was created twice by two U.S. presidents, for the same reason. Both created it to ensure the stability of factory production during world wars.

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Full Answer

The Nation War Labor Board, a federal agency created in 1918 and reformed in 1942, had two functions. The primary function was to ensure the stability of factory production during world wars I and II, and the secondary function was to preserve the rights of workers. It is distinct from the Nation Labor Relations board due to its emphasis on avoiding work stoppages.

The NWLB's main duty was to arbitrate negotiations between labor unions and employers. It had the power to institute wage regulations (minimum hourly pay) on national private industries, something that American business owners were not happy with as it decreased profits. These national industries included automobiles, railroads, shipping, airlines, telegraph lines and mining.

After the United States entered World War I, it began the sudden transition out of the Great Depression and into a war economy that required far greater production, and provided more work. While this was a positive change for the country, it did threaten to create labor disputes between labor unions and employers. These kinds of disputes were exactly what the NWLB arbitrated in order to ensure the uninterrupted production of wartime goods. This was especially important at the time because the United States was not only supporting its own military; it was also helping supply the other Allied Powers whose resources were becoming depleted.

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