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Railroad Mediation Acts


RAILROAD MEDIATION ACTS. After a series of damaging railroad strikes, the federal government began in the 1890s to consider new ways to assure uninterrupted transportation service without denying the rights of workers to organize. In the Erdman Act of 1898 and the Newlands Act of 1913, Congress created mediation procedures and, in the Adamson Act of 1916, it established the eight-hour day on the railroads. The Transportation Act of 1920 founded the Railroad Labor Board. After the board failed to prevent the shopmen's strike of 1922, Congress passed the Railway Labor Act of 1926. As amended in 1934, it continues to be the basic legislation in the field.

The amended lawcreated several procedures designed to resolve labor-management disputes. It established the National Railroad Adjustment Board to assert quasi-judicial authority over rates of pay, working conditions, and work rules in case of the failure of ordinary collective bargaining. It set up the National Mediation Board to assist labor and management in resolving differences. If all other procedures collapsed, the president was empowered to enforce a sixty-day cooling-off period in order to forestall a strike. The law also secured workers' right to organize unions of their own choosing.

In the 1960s, major strikes threatened railroad service. Congress enacted legislation to settle individual disputes, and it reviewed the idea of enforcing compulsory arbitration in labor disputes affecting transportation.


Urofsky, Melvin I. "State Courts and Protective Legislation during the Progressive Era: A Reevaluation." Journal of American History 72 (June 1985).

Zieger, Robert H. Republicans and Labor, 1919–1929. Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 1969.

K. AustinKerr/a. r.

See alsoLabor Legislation and Administration ; Railroad Administration, U.S. ; Railroads ; Strikes .

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