Labor unions and Taft-Hartley.

Author:Macaray, David
Position:Thinking Economically
 
FREE EXCERPT

Polls show that upwards of 50% of working people say they'd be interested in joining a labor union, but only 12% of America's workforce is unionized. Even acknowledging that some of those expressing an interest in joining up were fooling themselves and misleading the pollster, there is still a huge number of working people out there who would like to become union members but either don't quite know how to proceed or, frankly, are too frightened to make their feelings known, fearing management retaliation.

This discrepancy (between the number of those who'd like to join and actual membership) reflects two brutal truths: management has the statutory ability to limit organized labor's power; and companies are still dedicated to the point of obsession to keeping non-union workers away from union organizers.

While ensuring that the workforce remains unrepresented has always been a cat-and-mouse game, one which management has played well through the use of flattery, deceit, rewards and intimidation, the statutory limits on labor's power are directly traceable to the Taft-Hartley Act, passed in 1947. The Act was passed by a Republican congress, with the help of southern Democrats ("Dixiecrats"), over the veto of President Truman.

Taft-Hartley not only amended or rescinded many of the bedrock components of the 1935 National Labor Relations Act (commonly known as the Wagner Act), it more or less defanged the labor movement. It domesticated the movement. By adopting a set of "unfair labor practices" (ULPs) that applied to unions in much the same way that the Wagner Act applied ULPs to management, Taft-Hartley effectively blunted labor's ability to resort to "radical" action.

Taft-Hartley

* outlawed the closed shop,

* eliminated the sanctity of the union shop (allowing "right-to-work" states to exist),

* enacted a mandatory waiting period before calling a strike,

* made it illegal to engage in jurisdictional strikes, secondary strikes and boycotts,

* gave management the right to stall and impede a membership certification vote,

* and expanded the NLRB's governing board from 3 to 5 members.

In a word, Taft-Hartley made unions infinitely more "controllable."

Right-to-work laws allow employees the privilege of choosing whether to join or not join a union.

Prior to Taft-Hartley that right didn't exist; if you hired into a facility that had a union you were required to join it, or you lost your job. Today there are 22 states with right-to-work laws on the books, mainly...

To continue reading

FREE SIGN UP