National War Labor Board (1918–1919)

National War Labor Board
Agency overview
Formed April 8, 1918
Dissolved May 31, 1919
Jurisdiction Federal government of the United States
Headquarters Washington, D.C.
Employees 250
Agency executive

The National War Labor Board (NWLB) was an agency of the United States government established April 8, 1918 to mediate labor disputes during World War I.


The board was appointed by president Woodrow Wilson. It was composed of twelve members, including five representatives each from business and the American Federation of Labor (AFL), as well as co-chairs Frank P. Walsh and former president William Howard Taft.

The decisions of the NWLB generally supported and strengthened the position of labor. Although it opposed the disruption of war production by strikes, it supported an eight-hour day for workers, equal pay for women, and the right to organize unions and bargain collectively. Although the NWLB had no coercive enforcement power, Wilson generally ensured compliance with its decisions.

In general, the relative strength of organized labor in America grew substantially during the war. Union membership almost doubled after the formation of the NWLB. Of note, membership in the AFL rose from two million in 1916 to over three million in 1919. By the end of the decade, fifteen percent of the nonagricultural work force was unionized.

In all, the board ruled on 1,245 cases. Almost ninety percent of them sprang from worker complaints, and five skilled trades accounted for 45 percent. Of the cases, 591 were dismissed, 315 were referred to other federal labor agencies, and 520 resulted in formal awards or findings. In reaching decisions, the board was aided by an office and investigative staff of 250 people. Approximately seven hundred thousand workers in one thousand establishments were directly affected.

The board was disbanded on May 31, 1919, some six and a half months after the end of the war.


The twelve members of the board were:[1]


  1. Encyclopedia of U.S. labor and working-class history, Volume 1 By Eric Arnesen, page 985

Further reading

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