Who were Norris and LaGuardia?

Congressmen George Norris of Nebraska (left) & Fiorello La Guardia (right) of New York sponsored the act during the Great Depression as public opinion was strongly against employers who sought to prevent workers from joining unions and against judges who used the power of the courts to limit normal union activities.

Fiorella La Guardia later became Mayor of New York City. George Norris went onto the Senate.

What was the Norris LaGuardia Act?

The Norris-LaGuardia Anti-Injunction Act was signed by President Herbert Hoover on March 23, 1932. It passed the House 363-13 and the Senate 75-5 and was the culmination of a 50-year union campaign against “government by injunction.”

Professor Felix Frankfurter’s book 1 Felix Frankfurter and Nathan Greene, The Labor Injunction (Macmillan: 1930) was cited as supporting evidence for the the Norris-LaGuardia Act and Frankfurter helped draft the law himself. This was not the first time Frankfurter and FDr worked together. Previously they had teamed during WWI when Roosevelt was on the War Labor Board representing the US Navy and Felix Frankfurter on the War Labor Policies Board, They had then ordered establishment of “work councils” composed of employee representatives and seized defiant enterprises.

Nonetheless writing a major piece of legislation against government injunction, was a major coup for Austrian born and Harvard trained Frankfurter and led to him getting appointed to the Supreme Court in 1939 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, as associate justice.

The Act withdrew jurisdiction from the federal courts to issue injunctions against unions and thus also removed the ability of employers to defend themselves from malicious destruction by union employees or hire willing alternative workers (aka scabs) during a union strike.

Previously employers doing these things had been legitimately asserting their rights under state and federal law that prohibited coercive and anti-competitive conduct as part of “restraints on trade”.

The full text is here.

The Magna Carta of Labor Rights

The Norris-LaGuardia is considered the precursor of the 1935 Wagner Act, naemd for New York Senator Robert F. Wagner and the two acts are considered the Magna Carta of Labor Rights.

The Norris LaGuardia was one of the first acts in America and Euope to:

  1. declare nonunion employment agreements (“yellow-dog contracts”) unenforceable in federal courts (section 3);
  2. grant labor organizations immunity from liability for wrongful acts (this included sabotage of the employers site or equipment) under antitrust law (sections 4 and 5); and
  3. give unions immunity from private damage suits and nullify the equity powers (injunctive relief) of federal courts in labor disputes (sections 7–12).

The overriding object of the act was to free organized labor from the constraints that bind businessmen and others, allowing unions more scope to use their aggressive and violent tactics. This made the number of strikes double between 1932 and 1933 to 1,695. Strikes continued to climb to a peak of 4,740 in 1937 and the Flint Sit-down strike.

Unlike previous business downturns, strike activity had always diminished & many unions disappeared, but thanks to Norris-LaGuardia the tide had turned & trade unions actually grew stronger during the Depression. Economist Friedrich A. von Hayek 2 The Constitution of Liberty, (Chicago IL: University of Chicago Press, 1960), p. 260. wrote “”We have now reached a state where [unions] have become privileged institutions to which the general rules of law do not apply”.

This article is based on the writing of Dr. Morgan O. Reynolds, former chief economist of the U.S. Department of Labor.

The chart for the N-LaG act

The Moon in the fourth house, showing how the law protected use of fear against the claims of the employers (midheaven who has the keyword of hardworking prosperity from Charubel but as it is attacked by Saturn in the seventh, that is rather mitigated).

Uranus and Mercury are conjoined nearby highlighting how this was an innovative law (Mercury) threatening employers with lawsuits and fines (Mars ninth house).

Pluto in the twelfth is a good metaphor for the behind the scenes works of the unions lobbying the government against their employer (sixth house of employer/employee relationships).

The ascendant itself at 30 Cancer gets the keyword of “Collections” or perhaps a better term would be “collective bargaining process.”


  • 1
    Felix Frankfurter and Nathan Greene, The Labor Injunction (Macmillan: 1930)
  • 2
    The Constitution of Liberty, (Chicago IL: University of Chicago Press, 1960), p. 260.
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