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The Militant, 10 January 1949

Supreme Court Again Shows Its Class Bias

From The Militant, Vol. 13 No. 2, 10 January 1949, p. 1.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


The nine life-termers on the U.S. Supreme Court – most of them ex-corporation lawyers and all appointed by either Roosevelt or Truman – on Jan. 3 invited the spread of “Little Taft-Hartley” laws in the 48 states by upholding closed-shop bans in North Carolina, Nebraska and Arizona.

Two decisions by the supreme judicial guardians of the employing class give the green light to reactionary state legislatures to enact similar laws where they do not yet exist. In this way, the open-shop interests will be able to retain one of the main provisions of the Taft-Hartley Act in the event of the latter’s repeal. Sixteen states already have such bans and five more have restrictions limiting closed shop agreements.

Such a ban in the Taft-Hartley Act has been one of the restrictions most bitterly opposed by labor. It was the basis for the attempts by the Big Business publishers to undermine the AFL International Typographical Union and restore open shop conditions – an attempt which the ITU has fought grimly for more than 15 months.

Rank Hypocrisy

All the state bans, as well as the Taft-Hartley clause, hypocritically refer to the “right to work.” They don’t mean the right of workers to employment and job security. They mean the right of employers to replace union workers with non-union men and scabs.

In upholding the North Carolina and Nebraska statutes, the court claimed that these provided the unions with “equal rights,” contending that “state laws also make it impossible for an employer to make contracts with company unions which obligate the employer to refuse jobs to union members.” What kind of contract does an employer need when he’s got a company union ?

It is especially significant that these Supreme Court decisions – one on the North Carolina and Nebraska laws and the other on the Arizona statute – were riot five-to-four decisions. On the first, every justice stood up and was counted – on the side of the open shop interests. These included the “liberals” like William O. Douglas (keynote speaker at the recent CIO convention), Felix Frankfurter, Hugo Black, Robert H. Jackson and Frank Murphy. Murphy alone dissented in. the Arizona case, but without comment. Arizona’s law speaks only of the “right to work” of non-union men.

The Court’s Role

This Supreme Court ruling is. an arbitrary and arrogant blow at the majority of the American electorate who so recently overwhelmingly repudiated Taft-Hartley is in. It reveals how completely these nine men, appointed for life and immune to all popular restraints, contemptuously override the will of the people.

Once more the class character of the American courts – and particularly the very highest court – is nakedly revealed. Their vaunted “impartiality” is a smokescreen. They are nothing but the legal guardians of the propertied interests, selected by the ruling rich to serve the ruling rich. Because they are irremovable, they can commit acts that elected officials do not dare commit.

In any important conflict between labor and capital – the injunction and fine against the coal miners, the portal-to-portal pay case, etc. – the Supreme Court has stood automatically on the side of the labor exploiters.

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