Document Type


Publication Title

University of Pennsylvania Journal of Labor and Employment Law

Publication Date



NLRB, National Labor Relations Board, NLRA, National Labor Relations Act, United Farm Workers, UFW


What does law offer labor? It depends. The specifics of the law in question are critical, as are the make-up and funding of the agency that is charged with implementing it and the economic strength, political clout, and strategic creativity of the unions and employers that it governs. Today's discussions of the NLRA from the union perspective are tinged with desperation about what law does for and to organizing-a desperation that is born of labor's sense that it has lost too many important battles before the NLRB and the courts over the interpretation of the NLRA. In despair, however, workers and their institutions risk losing sight of critically valuable lessons that emerge from a long view of the labor movement about the varied ways that law can interact with collective efforts to improve working conditions. This Article seeks to draw out some of those insights, both through a brief overview of the changing relationship between the labor movement, law, and lawyers during the twentieth century, and, more deeply, through an exploration of fifteen years in the specific experience of one union, the United Farm Workers ("the UFW"), whose history, while unique in many regards, recapitulates and sharpens the points of the larger story.