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The Militant, 17 January 1949

An Editorial

The Fight Over the Taft Act

From The Militant, Vol. 13 No. 3, 17 January 1949, p. 1.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Top labor leaders, both CIO and AFL, are reported “uneasy" and “disturbed” about the way Truman and the Congressional Democrats are handling the issue of the Taft-Hartley Act. Union officials are expressing fears of a “runaround” by Truman on his key campaign promise – unconditional repeal of the Taft-Hartley Act.

Even before the 81st Congress began its session, three prominent labor spokesmen issued public warnings to Truman and the Democrats that they’d better come through speedily on their promises or labor might seek a new political road. Both Jacob Potofsky, head of the CIO Amalgamated Clothing Workers, and Daniel J. Tobin, head of the AFL Teamsters, spoke of the American workers taking the road of Brtiish labor and building their own party if Truman hedged on his promises. Allan L. Swim, editor of the CIO News, urged the Democrats not to fail on their promises if “the nation is to avoid the creation of a real third party.”

Good Reason for Uneasiness

If these timid and conservative union leaders felt impelled to such threats so soon after the elections, how much more reason the union ranks have for “uneasiness” today. Truman has revealed himself AGAINST repeal of the Taft-Hartley Act until and unless a “substitute” union-curbing bill, containing some of the worst features of the Taft-Hartley Act, is enacted.

Both the CIO and AFL are demanding immediate unconditional repeal of the Taft-Hartley Act and restoration intact of the original Wagner Act. The Truman administration is maneuvering to get Congress to act on a “one-package” bill, which combines repeal of the Tait-Hartley Act with simultaneous revision of the Wagner Act to include a number of Taft-Hartley features.

It is clear that Truman intends to keep the club of the Taft-Hartley Act – which he used so effectively against the railroad workers, miners, printers, maritime and atomic workers – until he has another strikebreaking law at his disposal. While Taft-Hartley repeal is stalled in debate over amendments to the Truman “one-package” bill, the club of the Slave Labor Law will remain poised over labor’s head this spring as the workers prepare for the “fourth round” wage drive.

Big Business has quickly sensed its opportunities. It is rallying its forces and dispatching an army of lobbying “shock troops” into Washington. It is lining up its Congressional agents, open and concealed, to stall, “amend” and “revise” every proposed progressive measure. Wall Street is in there pitching full steam. And that’s what the mighty host of labor should be doing, instead of warming the bench and “waiting for Harry.”

A united grass-roots movement of millions of unionists should be mobilized into action against the millions of dollars and powerful lobbies that Big Business has unloosed on the White House and Congress. Organized labor must quickly mount a counter-offensive, the spearhead of which should be a National Congress of Labor to convene in Washington, D.C., before the very front door of Congress.

There is already a wide body of influential labor opinion, both CIO and AFL, behind such a Congress of Labor. The AFL International Typographical Union proposed such action last August. The top board of the CIO National Maritime Union has endorsed the proposal. Since the election, in addition to a number of local unions, the powerful Illinois State CIO Council has urged a Congress of Labor of all union bodies to fight in Washington for labor’s program.

Don’t Rely on Back-Room Deals

CIO President Philip Murray several weeks ago addressed an appeal to the AFL and Railroad Brotherhoods leaders for a joint legislative conference. The CIO leaders should carry this appeal further and call a Congress of Labor, inviting representation not only from all its affiliates but all other national labor bodies and their affiliates.

Meanwhile all local unions, whatever their affiliation, should immediately adopt strong resolutions demanding that their national officials take action now to make the Congress of Labor a reality. Don’t rely on backroom deals and verbal, pleas of individual union leaders to defend labor’s interests in Washington. Nationwide, united, independent action of all labor alone can ensure the victory of labor’s demands.

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