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During the 1930s, in response to growing labor discontent, the United States Congress passed the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). Championed by President Franklin Roosevelt’s as an equalizing measure in the American workplace, the NLRA received vigorous opposition from powerful leaders in multiple industries. This article examines an outbreak of violence between workers and agents of management at Republic Steel in Youngstown, Ohio during the spring and summer of 1937 when workers attempted to organize—emboldened by new rights granted to them in the NLRA. It demonstrates the life and death consequences that marred labor relations in the United States. Disputes between workers and management were usually economic, but they were also driven but issues of culture and status. For those involved in the Republic Steel riot, notions of power, self-determination, and workplace safety were just as important as wages. The management and workers of Republic Steel provided the NLRA with a test case of its effectiveness. Incidents like the one described in this paper were proof the NLRA needed to be strengthened.



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