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David Coolidge

Answer Taft Hartley Bill
with a Labor Offensive!

(9 June 1947)

From Labor Action, Vol. 11 No. 23, 9 June 1947, pp. 1 & 7.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Iron and Steel Institute and all the big capitalist employers have received the relief and the security which they sought from their government at Washington. The Taft-Hartley anti-labor bill, known by the name of “Labor-Management Relations Act, 1947,” has been approved by the conference of the two houses and Congress and is ready to be put to vote.

According to Taft, the bill agreed on by the conferees is not “harsh.” It does not contain all of the provisions that industry had demanded. Taft let it be known that industry had demanded a tougher bill than the present Taft-Hartley Bill. The NAM and individual corporations had their lawyers present to help in the drafting of the bills and to give advice as to what industry wanted and must have. It is known that lawyers from the Case Co. and from Chrysler took a hand In the drafting of the bills.

The Taft-Hartley Bill is a very long bill, containing thousands of words. Two and a half pages are required in the New York Times for the bill with all its titles, sub-titles, sections and sub-sections. It is formulated in the usual technical jargon of “the law,” and particularly in the technical jargon of the congressional lawyer. Not only is the bill a long one and wrapped in all the gibberish of musty legalisms, but it is deliberately organized in a very tricky fashion. It gives and takes away, it protects and punishes, it is clear and obscure, it is loose and definite. It is just such a bill as to provide a paradise for shyster lawyers and for the best medieval minds on the federal bench. The bill is so worded that every major “violation” can become a case for long-drawn-out court proceedings, costing the unions thousands of dollars foe the purpose of getting nowhere.

Myth of Equality

In the language of the bill, the purpose of this act is to protect “the full flow of commerce,” the avoidance of industrial strife by getting employers, employees and labor organizations, “under law” to “recognize one another’s legitimate rights.” Also “to prescribe the legitimate rights of both employees and employers in their relations affecting commerce.” That is, the act is basically concerned with the protection of “our system of free enterprise,” with the maintenance of business, with the enhancement of capitalism.

Congress makes no apologies for taking this course. “Liberals” joined with the most reactionary in voting for this bill. The overwhelming majority of the members of Congress, Republicans and Democrats, liberals and reactionaries, joined hands in coming to the defense of “commerce.” No distinction can be made between members of Congress who had been elected by labor and those who had been opposed by labor. With insignificant exceptions, they all acted in concert and alike. It is significant that congressmen who were elected by the efforts of labor, by the efforts of the PAC and the CIO, fell in behind two of the most reactionary men in Congress: Taft and Hartley.

In this Taft-Hartley Bill, the members of Congress attempted to cover up what they really meant by the free flow of commerce and the protection of commerce. The bill creates once again the myth’ of equality of capital and labor, or the myth that such equality can be established -in a capitalist society. According to the protagonists of this legislation, labor, had been favored during the New Deal against the employers. Now it is time to even things up, to produce an equitable balance between labor and capital. According to its proponents, what the Taft-Hartley Bill does is to bend the rod the other way so as to remove inequities which had developed under the New Deal.

This is not the only myth which this bill seeks to spread. It attempts to establish the belief once again that the government is neutral and sits calmly and impartially above the conflict between capital and labor.

Slyly Worded

The bill goes further in its mythmaking and in distortion of the facts of capitalism and capitalist society. Great concern is expressed for the rights of labor and all the workers. Collective bargaining and the right to organize are exalted. The attempt is made in the wording of the bill to make workers believe that the framers and supporters of the bill are really concerned with the right of labor to collective bargaining and the right to organize. They want to make labor believe that there is real concern in Congress for the protection of labor.

This is not the case, however, and no worker should be deluded. This bill is a direct frontal attack on labor in the interest of the big manufacturers, bankers and processors. The bill is so worded that it can be used for all manner of purposes not expressly stated in the act. It is open to almost any interpretation which a government agency or a court may wish to give it. It is slyly worded with an eye toward escaping veto by the Man from Missouri as he looks ahead to 1948.

Also, the scoundrels who wrote this bill and voted for it were concerned about the reaction of labor. They wanted to please their capitalist masters. But at the same time they know that labor in the U.S. is not in the habit of maintaining a permanent retreat. The framers therefore exercised a little caution and an abundance of tricks and sly phrases and ostensible concern for the rights of all the people.

Herein lies one of the dangers of this bill. The final version is “not so bad as the House bill,’’ “We did not include all the things the employers wanted.” Also, the bill sets up a procedure which is extremely complicated. All of the following government entities will have a hand in the settlement of labor-industry disputes, in one way or other, at one time or Other. A National Labor Relations Board, a Mediation Service, the Secretary of Labor, a “Labor-Management” Committee, a Board of Inquiry, the President, the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Federal Courts.

A Political Attack

What does this bill actually do? What does it forbid? A sixty-day notice must be given Of intention to end or seek the change of a contract. Contracts must remain in full force during the sixty-day period. Unions (or employers) are required to give the new Mediation Service thirty days’ notice of intention to terminate or seek to change the contract. Workers striking during the sixty-day period will lose all rights under the act. Unions must file financial reports, giving all expenditures for salaries and allowances for the three principal officers, as well as of dues arid initiation fees.

A union can have no rights under the act until each of its officers has filed an affidavit swearing that he or she is not a member of the Communist (Stalinist) Party and does not believe in the violent overthrow of the government. Workers should look at this provision of the act, for what it is and not get trapped into the belief that this section is today. It will remain, directed at the present Stalinist organization. It is, in practice, directed at the Stalinists today and for very practical reasons: it is Russia against which the U.S. prepares for war. In order, however, to carry out the long-term motivations of the act, it will be very easy for this or some future capitalist Congress to amend the act to include union officers who are members of any non-capitalist party: a militant labor party or an “American” revolutionary party.

This section of the Act should be related to the provisions against political contributions or EXPENDITURES to a political party in national elections by “any corporation whatever, or any labor organization.” This restriction includes a primary election, or a political convention or caucus. This means that if labor formed a labor party, the unions could not make contributions to their own party. Not only this, but even today, when there is no labor party, the unions, for instance, are restrained from making expenditures in behalf of a candidate for a national office. The term “caucus” can be interpreted in such a way that unions would be forbidden to make contributions to or expenditures for the PAC.

This is the kind of measure that the “enemies” and the “friends” of labor alike have concocted for labor while labor’s bureaucrats have been busy doing nothing.

The whole bill is a political attack on labor by the capitalist ruling class. It is a political attack because this bill is an attack by the whole capitalist class, as a class, against the workers as a class, it attempts to stifle the working class in the parliamentary arena, and on the economic field.

The bill bans the closed shop; The union and the employer cannot make an agreement for a “union Security” clause until after a special NLRB-conducted vote in the union on this specific question. This is an additional requirement to the one already existing that the union must have won an election in the plant. This is not all, however; after one year a minority group in the union may secure a new vote and have the opportunity to upset the union security agreement.

A Raid on Labor

Check-off is confined to dues and can be used only in cases where the individual employee has given consent in writing. The bill will create groups of splinter bargaining units. Collective bargaining cannot be established by the simple device of employees voting their preferences. The union must satisfy all the technicality requirements in connection with reports. The bill will permit the existence of company unions and guarantees that they will have a place on the ballot at. election.

The Taft-Hartley Bill eliminates the Norris-LaGuardia Act and authorizes the rise of injunctions. Even the new NLRB may issue restraining orders against the union. Employers are given free rein to raid union treasuries. Employers may sue the union in any federal district where the union has officers or agents.

This whole bill is a raid; a raid on the security of labor by the capitalist ruling class through its hirelings in the government at Washington. If this bill becomes law and the unions abide by the provisions of the bill, labor will be back where it was fifty years ago.

Union Leaders’ Role

Bill Green, Phil Murray and the other labor bureaucrats should think a little. They have been talking a great deal of nonsense about “slave labor,” “destroying the unions.” and “breaking up the unions.” This way of characterizing the Taft-Hartley Bill is the sheerest stupidity. The bill does not destroy the unions, if it passes, the unions will be as big as they are now, they will be legal, they will have the right to strike, every worker will still have the right to “withhold his labor” whenever he sees fit. That is, all the forms are preserved.

Many workers will feel that the provisions on “union democracy” are a good thing. All workers who believe this way will not be reactionary workers. They will be somewhat backward, but all of them will not be reactionaries. They know that the labor movement is greatly in need of far more internal democracy. Their weakness is that they do not understand that union democracy cannot be established by the reactionary capitalist government, but only by the workers themselves, in a struggle against their own union bureaucracy.

Green, Murray and Co. are stupid because they do not understand or do not want to understand that the capitalist ruling class of today does not desire to “destroy” the unions. They only want to get exactly what the Hart-Hartley Bill grants them: the right to keep the labor movement in the ante-room, to make it subject to periodic injunction proceedings, to have the government and its various labor boards take over in effect what is a managerial function in relation to the unions, to get the unions in such position that they can make no further progress toward becoming genuine class organizations. It is to this consummation that the Greens and the Murrays have made and are still making a most traitorous contribution.

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