Robert Ferdinand Wagner and 20th Century American society

Student thesis: Master's Thesis


The 1932 election of Franklin D. Roosevelt to the Presidency of the United States of America (USA) and the introduction of the New Deal policies heralded 40 years of unsurpassed prosperity for American workers. A key plank in the New Deal platform was the legal protections that the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), aka the Wagner Act, allowed American workers to organise into trade unions of their choice. The NLRA was a truly radical departure from existed political and cultural norms as it provided a neutral umpire for industrial disputes and placed collective bargaining as the fulcrum for wealth redistribution in the USA. It had a further aspiration of eliminating a major expression of collective violence and reducing the potential attraction to the political extremities of communism and fascism. The Wagner Act has increasingly been assessed in terms of industrial relations and collective bargaining. In this dissertation, the outcomes of the Wagner Act will be assessed to expand its legacy outside of a purely industrial setting. A further avenue of enquiry will be to revive the expansive legacy of its author, Senator Robert F. Wagner, and the central role that he played in reducing social tensions through his reformist agenda. The central thrust of this thesis is to demonstrate Wagner's view of building an inclusive America that was crucial to the nation's ongoing affection for the New Deal. The decline of the American trade union movement's industrial and political power has overshadowed the intent and importance of the NLRA.
Date of Award17 Mar 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University Of Strathclyde
SponsorsUniversity of Strathclyde

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