|Download For $1.99: - Senator Robert A. Taft - Address regarding The Taft-Hartley Bill - September 23, 1947 - Gordon Skene Sound Collection|
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If Robert A. Taft was responsible for nothing else during his tenure on Capitol Hill, he would forever be known as the co-author of a piece of legislation that amended the Labor Relations Act of 1935 and did much to change the landscape of Unions and Labor from the Post-World War 2 years on.
The Labor Management Relations Act of 1947, better known as the Taft–Hartley Act, is a United States federal law that restricts the activities and power of labor unions. It was enacted by the 80th United States Congress over the veto of President Harry S. Truman, becoming law on June 23, 1947.
Taft-Hartley was introduced in the aftermath of a major strike wave in 1945 and 1946. Though it was enacted by the Republican-controlled 80th Congress, the law received significant support from congressional Democrats, many of whom joined with their Republican colleagues in voting to override Truman’s veto. The act continued to generate opposition after Truman left office, but it remains in effect.
The Taft–Hartley Act amended the 1935 National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), prohibiting unions from engaging in several “unfair labor practices.” Among the practices prohibited by the act are jurisdictional strikes, wildcat strikes, solidarity or political strikes, secondary boycotts, secondary and mass picketing, closed shops, and monetary donations by unions to federal political campaigns. The NLRA also allowed states to pass right-to-work laws banning union shops. Enacted during the early stages of the Cold War, the law required union officers to sign non-communist affidavits with the government.
Taft-Hartley defined six additional unfair labor practices, reflecting Congress’ perception that some union conduct also needed correction. The Act was amended to protect employees’ rights from these unfair practices by unions.
The amendments protected employees’ Section 7 rights from restraint or coercion by unions, and said that unions could not cause an employer to discriminate against an employee for exercising Section 7 rights. They declared the closed shop illegal, but provided that employers could sign a union shop agreement under which employees could be required to join the union on or after the 30th day of employment.
The amendments also imposed on unions the same obligation to bargain in good faith that the Wagner Act placed on employers. They prohibited secondary boycotts, making it unlawful for a union that has a primary dispute with one employer to pressure a neutral employer to stop doing business with the first employer.
Unions were prohibited from charging excessive dues or initiation fees, and from “featherbedding,” or causing an employer to pay for work not performed. The new law contained a “free speech clause,” providing that the expression of views, arguments, or opinions shall not be evidence of an unfair labor practice absent the threat of reprisal or promise of benefit.
This address, given by Robert A. Taft to a crowd assembled in Seattle, was part of his tour of the U.S. promoting the Taft-Hartley Act and it’s broadcast in its entirety here.