Collective Bargaining
Collective Bargaining
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The right of workers to organize and select representatives to collectively bargain for them was guaranteed by the Bill of Rights in the 1938 New York State Constitution.


The introductory provision in section 17 of the New York State Bill of Rights, providing that human labor is not a commodity or an article of commerce was a major social policy pronouncement arising out of the labor movement.  It had originated with the federal Clayton Act and was intended to protect labor from antitrust conspiracy charges, and while some felt it was unnecessary to include in the Constitution, it was incorporated because it presented an ennobling view of people that was worth emphasizing.  

The right of employees to collectively bargain through representatives of their own choosing had already been recognized in the courts, but by not defining employees as public or private this provision maintained the existing exclusion from collective bargaining for public employees, as well as those of religious, nonprofit and charitable institutions.  This is significant because the Supreme Court over the years had interpreted the right to bargain collectively as including the right to strike, which was a right the 1938 Constitutional Convention could not have agreed upon.  

It was only in 1967, with the enactment of the Taylor Law, that public employees gained the right to collectively bargain through representatives of their choosing, but without the right to strike.

In both Ohio and Wisconsin, which have recently attempted to restrict collective bargaining rights, such rights are statutory and can be changed by the legislature.  Unlike the New York State Constitution, the constitution in those states contains no mention of collective bargaining.



Bill Of Rights

§17. Labor of human beings is not a commodity nor an article of commerce and shall never be so considered or construed. ...

Employees shall have the right to organize and to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing.




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