Abstract: The Freedom of the Press from Labor: The National War Labor Board, the First Amendment, and the Assertion of Managerial Prerogatives in the United States during the 1940s

Shannan Clark


During the Second World War, the National War Labor Board (NWLB) had a crucial role in minimizing labor-management strife in the United States and maintaining maximum production in the arsenal of democracy. In exchange for unions' "no-strike" pledge and their acceptance of wage controls, the NWLB mandated various policies that abetted the expansion of union membership. One of the most contentious of these pro-labor measures was the insistence of the NWLB on the inclusion of maintenance of membership clauses into labor contracts in industries deemed essential to the war effort, a category that included the publishers of newspapers and news magazines. Some publishers with employees represented by the Newspaper Guild, a CIO-affiliated union of journalists and other white-collar workers, resisted NWLB moves to extend this policy into the print media. Prominent media enterprises such as the <i>New York Times</i> and Time Inc. argued that the NWLB directives violated the First Amendment guarantees of freedom of the press. Appropriating a constitutional right of individual American citizens as a right of corporations, they insinuated that management would lose editorial control over media content if journalists were required to remain members of the Guild in good standing as a condition of continued employment.