In the summer of 1899, the Newsboys of New York banded together, formed a union, and began to “strike” against two of the city’s largest newspapers in response to a price increase. After a two-week struggle, the newspaper companies agreed to compromise by buying back any unsold papers at the end of the day from the Newsboys. They did not, however, agree to the Newsboys’ classification of the effort as a “strike.” The newspapers saw this as a boycott of non-employees, or independent contractors. After the turn of the century, Congress began to pass laws protecting employees, and in 1935 they passed the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), which protected employees’ rights to unionize, collectively bargain, and strike. The Newsboys, eager to solidify their rights, argued to the Supreme Court in 1944, in NLRB. v. Hearst Publications, Inc., that they were in fact employees. Although the Court agreed, Congress did not, and in response passed the “Taft-Hartley” amendments to the NLRA. These amendments excluded independent contractors from the definition of employee, introducing a major issue into the labor realm—how do you differentiate between an independent contractor and an employee for the purposes of unionization and collective bargaining? This Note examines the distinction between employees and independent contractors through the case example of the Newsboys and ponders if the distinction is necessary or if it merely denies workers’ rights.
Hannah Esquenazi, Who Can “Seize the Day?”: Analyzing Who Is an “Employee” for Purposes of Unionization and Collective Bargaining Through the Lens of the “Newsie” Strike of 1899, 59 B.C. L. Rev. 2551 (2018), https://lawdigitalcommons.bc.edu/bclr/vol59/iss7/9