Date of Award

7-16-2015

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Sociology

First Advisor

Robert Heasley, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Valerie Gunter, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Michael T. Korns, Ph.D.

Abstract

The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) is a statute that contains a data-rich history rested upon a very controversial policy issue - that is, has the NLRA's primary policy directive fundamentally changed? The crux of this controversy is predicated upon a divergent policy interpretation that has manifested ever since the original law was amended in 1947 (Morris, 2012). While scholars, such as Gross (1985), have affirmed that policy directives have altered throughout the law's history, little attention has been given to the specific language used to infer judicial actors' interpretation of the law and previous scholarship has failed to provide a historical narrative of different policy strains throughout the NLRA's existence. That is, little attention has been given to the creation and recreation of policy with relation to the law. Informed by Gidden's structuration theory (1979), this dissertation explored the policy narrative of the NLRA as communicated through its body of related judicial and National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) case law. A qualitative content analysis was conducted that seeks to highlight the specific statements of policy directives found in judicial actors' interpretation of the law. Data were sampled across the entire history of the statute and strains of policy were constructed to demonstrate the recreation of legal doctrines across time. The data revealed that labor policy functions at three levels, which include base policy, mid-policy, and supra policy. Base policy is a relatively chaotic domain of policy that effectuates legal doctrines related to the day-to-day issues that arise with respect to the NLRA. Mid-policy encompasses ideologically informed dyad policies of the NLRA as being either a statute to promote collective bargaining or protect employee free choice to refrain from joining labor organizations. Supra policy constitutes the central policy of the NLRA as preventing industrial strife. These three layers of policy interact to create a socially constructed reality of U.S. labor law that is perpetuated by the NLRB, jurists, and Supreme Court.

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