National Industrial Recovery Act


President Roosevelt Signing the Industrial Recovery Act

One of the most controversial bills of the New Deal was the National Industrial Recovery Act.

One of the most controversial pieces of New Deal Legislation was the National Industrial Recovery Act. The National Recovery Act began in the Congress– independent of Roosevelt’s actions. A number of Senators and Congressman promoted their bills to decrease competition, increase wages, and all together ameliorate the chaos that the Depression had caused. The President wanted to gain control of the recovery process. Roosevelt appointed General Hugh Johnson to be in charge of the efforts to mold the necessary legislation. General Johnson quickly created the essence of the N.I.R.A. (a bill that created shorter working hours suspended anti-trust regulations, and imposed wage-price controls.) The goal was to put 4 million people to work quickly.

The initial N.I.R.A. bill included a provision to guarantee workers the right to join unions. Additional features were added to the bill along the way. The bill also outlawed the practice of forcing workers to sign any contract that forbade them from organizing or joining a union. N.I.R.A. empowered various industry organizations to create and administer a series of commerce codes that would control the prices and wages in any given industry. All of these regulations were part of the first portion of the N.I.R.A. bill.

To ensure that the N.I.R.A. would pass they included a second part of the bill (Title II) calling for Public Works spending. The idea behind Title II was to start large infrastructure projects that would both put the unemployed to work and push money into the economy. At first, the labor department– under Francis Perkins– prepared a list of projects coming to a cost of $5 Billion. Roosevelt went through the list, prioritized the projects and pared it down to $1 billion. By the time the project list became part of the N.I.R.A. it had grown back to $3 billion.