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January 1997, Vol. 120, No. 1
What if the Supreme Court convened and no labor cases showed up? As unlikely as it may seem, that is precisely what happened during the High Court's 1994-95 term. This circumstance, while unusual, should not be completely surprising: over the last 30 years, the traditional conception of labor lawemphasizing labor-management relations, union organizing efforts, and internal union affairshas evolved into a more sophisticated and expansive notion of "employment law" that encompasses a wide array of workplace-based legal protections. The Court's "workplace docket" has come to reflect this shift and occasionally has been dominated by employment lawnot labor lawdisputes.
A Supreme Court without "labor" cases would have been unthinkable just three decades ago. During its 1964-65 term, for example, the Court issued approximately 100 published decisions, no fewer than 14 of which raised labor-management or internal union affairs issues.1 The Court's emphasis on such cases at that time reflected a much different legal landscape than today, with the Court usually being asked to decide workplace issues under just a handful of Federal laws.2 The nonagricultural work force also was more heavily unionized then, with nearly 3 in 10 workers being members of labor unions.3
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1 See Frank J. Dugan, Labor-Law Decisions of the Supreme Court, 1964 Term, 1965 Labor Relations Yearbook (BNA) at 69; see also Clyde Summers, Labor Law in the Supreme Court: 1964 Term, 75 Yale L.J. 59 (1965). The following term was even dubbed "the year of the pause" by one commentator because the Court decided only 10 labor cases. See Sanford H. Kadish, Labor Law Decisions of the Supreme Court, 1965-66 Term, 1966 Labor Relations Yearbook (BNA) at 104.
2 The most prominent of these laws were the Norris-LaGuardia Act, ch. 90, 47 Stat. 70 (1932) (codified as amended at 29 U.S.C. § 101 (1994)); the National Labor Relations Act, ch. 372, 49 Stat. 449 (1935) (current version at 29 U.S.C.A. § 151 (West 1973 & Supp. 1996)); the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959, Pub. L. No. 86-257, 73 Stat. 519 (1959) (codified as amended at 29 U.S.C. § 401 (1994)); the Railway Labor Act, ch. 347, 44 Stat. 577 (1926) (current version at 45 U.S.C.A. § 151 (West 1986 & Supp. 1996)); and the Fair Labor Standards Act, ch. 676, 52 Stat. 1060 (1938) (current version at 29 U.S.C.A. § 201(West 1978 & Supp. 1996)).
3 National and International UnionsMembership: 1940-1964, 1966 Labor Relations Yearbook (BNA) at 497.
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