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08/31/2018

USA Civil and related branches of law – Part 2

Labor legislation in the United States began to develop rapidly from the 1870s. in the course of acute social conflicts between large entrepreneurs and those trade unions that resolutely defended the interests of workers. To date, there has been a system of normative acts regulating labor relations, in which federal laws play a decisive role, although a wide range of issues remain in the hands of the states.

In the 1930s, during the “new course” of President F. Roosevelt, the laws of Norris-La Guardia (1932) and Wagner (1935) were adopted, which guaranteed the rights of workers to form trade unions, to conclude collective agreements with entrepreneurs and strikes, as well as the Fair Labor Conditions Act (1938), etc. After the Second World War, during the period of the monopolies ‘entry into workers’ rights, laws were promulgated on labor relations between Taft-Hartley (1947) and Landrum-Griffin (1959). The totality of these and other federal acts now largely regulates the labor rights of American citizens and the legal status of trade unions. In some cases, state laws, including those issued soon after the adoption of the Taft-Hartley Act, contain more restrictions on trade union rights than federal laws. At the same time, the federal laws adopted in the 1960s largely reflected the interests of workers and guaranteed equal pay for equal work, proclaimed the prohibition of discrimination in the field of labor for reasons of race, origin, color, religion, sex, etc. The existing laws prohibit the participation of trade unions in the political struggle and the conduct of election campaigns, the system of “closed shops”, i.e. employment only members of trade unions, and contain a number of other restrictions of trade union activities. The bodies of the Ministry of Labor have the right to monitor the financial and organizational practices of trade unions. An important role in the process of concluding collective agreements belongs to the National Office for Labor Relations and the relevant specialized administrative organs of the states. The right of workers to strike is limited by the prohibition of strikes of solidarity, the possibility of judicial prohibition of strikes by civil servants and workers of state enterprises, the duty of the trade union to notify the entrepreneur and the federal mediation and reconciliation service 60 days before the strike, as well as the President’s right to defer or suspend for 80 days started strike, if it jeopardizes “national welfare and security.” Carrying out “illegal” strikes that violate these requirements entails the dissolution of trade unions, the imposition of large fines on them, and the criminal responsibility of managers. At the same time, the bodies of the Federal Ministry of Labor and relevant institutions in the states are entitled to supervise compliance by employers with legislation on minimum wage rates and maximum hours of work, safety rules at enterprises, and so on.

During the “new course” the foundations of the existing social security system (the Federal Law on Social Security in 1935 and other acts) were laid down. It includes, first of all, social insurance measures related to labor relations and financed by contributions of workers and entrepreneurs: payment of old-age, disability, survivors, unemployment benefits and accidents at work. The social security system also includes measures of social assistance to poor families, single mothers with inadequate income, people in need of long-term care, Indians, etc. The implementation of such measures took considerable dimensions in the 1960s, under President Johnson, when financed from the federal budget multibillion-dollar programs to provide assistance to the needy, including by distributing free coupons for the purchase of a long-wave free goods or preferential medical care. Subsequently, the appropriations for these programs were greatly reduced, but remain very significant.

The struggle against racial discrimination, for the equality of Negroes, Hispanics and other minorities in the field of labor, education, housing and other spheres of life, which developed with renewed vigor after the Second World War, was reflected in a number of principal acts of the Supreme Court of the United States – 1954, Browder – 1956, Turner – 1962, etc.), as well as in federal laws on civil rights – 1964 and 1968, on the fair hiring of housing – 1968, etc. (and in significantly lesser degree in the legislation of individual states). In July 1990, the Law on Disabled Persons was adopted, aimed at significantly expanding the rights of physically or mentally disabled citizens. In particular, the law prohibits discrimination in hiring or promotion.

In the second half of XX century. significant development of new branches of law related to environmental protection and consumer protection. Under the active influence of the public and the resistance of large corporations, the US Congress passed laws on national environmental policy in 1969 and on improving the quality of the environment in 1970, and on their basis – a number of more private acts, the texts of which are constantly updated and additions: on the control over water pollution, on air purity, on the control of harmful noises, on the elimination of solid waste, etc. In 1982, a very important Law on the Policy on the Elimination of Nuclear Waste was issued. A specially created Environmental Protection Agency has the right to issue by-laws that regulate the criteria and standards for water quality, ambient air, industrial waste, wastewater, etc., and to prosecute corporations and other violators of established rules.

In order to combat the “deception of consumers” (false advertising of goods, the delivery of falsified or incorrectly labeled products, the demand for payment of unsolicited services, etc.), hundreds of legal acts have now been adopted at the level of the legislation of the federation and the states. The publication of these acts was a reaction of lawmakers to the unfolding in the 1960s. the consumer movement, headed by a well-known public figure Ralph Neyder, against deception and abuse in the sphere of trade and services. The National Administration for Food and Drug Administration issues lists of standard requirements for the quality of the products. The current legislation allows consumers and their associations, as well as state bodies, to choose between criminal prosecution and bringing a civil claim to trading firms and service providers engaged in consumer deception.

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