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Susan Green

Quick Repeal of T-H Act Snagged
on Delay Tactics in House, Senate

(31 January 1949)

From Labor Action, Vol. 13 No. 4, 31 January 1949, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

While the center of the Washington stage was occupied by President Truman this week, noteworthy developments were taking place in the wings. Labor is most interested in what has been going on with respect to the Taft-Hartley law, which the Democrats, it is still remembered, have pledged to repeal at this session. What has been happening in the closed sessions of the Senate Labor Committee to date worries the labor leaders who have pinned their hopes to Democratic campaign promises.

The division of forces in the committee is about as follows: there are the left-wing Democrats, headed by Senator Pepper of Florida, who want T-H repealed immediately with the simultaneous restoration of the Wagner Act. This, by the way, is the position of the CIO and AFL. Then there are the “other Democrats,” with Senator Elbert D. Thomas, chairman of the committee, as their spokesman, whose attitude is, “What’s the hurry?” Finally, among those vociferously heard from, are the pro-Taft-Hartley Republicans, most important of whom is Senator Taft himself.

On January 19, Senator Pepper gave notice that at the next session of the committee to be held on January 21, he would compel a showdown on procedure. He holds to the view that no hearings are necessary in the committee because the electorate unequivocally voted to repeal T-H. He wants the committee to report out to the floor of the Senate at once a measure repealing T-H and simultaneously restoring the Wagner Act. Senator Thomas, stalling for time, feels that action on T-H should be held over until other legislation of a less controversial nature is moved along. Thomas points to such legislation as the bill for federal aid to education as an example of what should be tackled before the very hot T-H issue. Pepper retorts that even the federal aid to education bill has produced divergence of opinion, instanced by the fight over whether or not federal aid should go to private and parochial schools as well as to public schools.

Delaying Tactics

At the January 21 meeting of the Senate Labor Committee, Senator Pepper was absent and his showdown did not materialize. Instead of a showdown on the Pepper proposal for immediate action, the Democratic procrastinators gained ground. Most of the Democratic members of the committee, while of course in favor of “speedy action” – because didn’t they promise that in the campaign speeches? – felt they should not attempt a revision of T-H without “at least limited hearings.” On Friday Senator Thomas seemed more optimistic about delaying decisive action on T-H by giving priority to federal aid to library service, to establishing a national foundation for scientific research, to federal aid to education – all of which more or less worthy causes were not the main issues of the campaign.

In the meantime, Senator Taft has defined the strategy that the Republicans will pursue. He will offer in committee amendments “one by one.” “If necessary,” he says, “I will offer all the main provisions of the Taft- Hartley law as amendments.” While he expects to be defeated by the Democratic majority, each amendment will require discussion and entail interminable delay.

Senator Pepper retorts angrily: “It’s a filibuster. This is the first time Senator Taft has appeared as the champion of filibuster ...” Whereupon Senator Taft hotly denies the charge: “It’s no filibuster. It is rather an attempt by Senator Pepper to impose a gag rule on the Labor Committee.”

When the Senate Labor Committee meets again on January 24, this edifying battle of words will continue. In the meantime there have been various predictions as to the earliest date the T-H issue may be expected to reach the floor of the Senate, April 1 being a pretty optimistic prediction under the circumstances. And Drew Pearson learns from his “confidential sources” that the labor leaders who staked their all – rather labor’s all -- on the promises of the Democratic Party, have hit the ceiling. What did they expect? Perhaps the view up there will be conducive to sober reflections.


Among the many hundreds of bills introduced in the Senate and House in these first three weeks since Congress convened, is a proposal for a guaranteed annual wage. This is a bi-partisan affair sponsored by Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, Republican from Massachusetts, and by Senator McMahon, Democrat from Connecticut.

Both Senators have said some very fine things in support of their measure. Lodge thinks it imperative to take up the problem of the worker who is “constantly haunted by the worry as to where he’ll be or how he’ll be living by the end of the year. Man wants to make his plans by the year. The education of children, the acquiring of a real home, the planning of recreation and vacations – all the things which give life meaning and make for permanence and dependability – involve the ability to plan by the year.”

Senator McMahon sponsors the bill on the theory that “The time to repair a leaking roof is when the sun still shines. The time to make plans for avoiding unemployment is when our people are working.”

The provisions of their bill do not, however, exactly tally with the fine words spoken. For instance, their bill, if enacted into law, would affect only businesses contracting to supply the federal government with material or supplies in any amount exceeding $10,000 a year.

Why limit the scope of the law only to businesses having contracts with the government? Even though the government is the biggest buyer from industry, there are many concerns with which it does not deal directly. Besides the government’s role as a buying contractor is a changing one, depending on world and domestic affairs. Why not cover all industry in a law guaranteeing an annual wage?

Another serious criticism of the proposal is that it would call for a guarantee of thirty hours of wages for each of forty calendar weeks in the twelve months. A thirty-hour work week is fine but only if the pay is as if for a forty-hour week. Otherwise, what becomes of the standard of living of the worker and his family? Furthermore, there are fifty-two calendar weeks in the year, not forty. It is unfortunate but true that the average worker cannot afford a vacation without pay of twelve weeks in twelve months.

Whether or not this Lodge-McMahon bill will get to the floor of the Senate at this session is not known. It is clear that labor unions must stir up interest in the question of a guaranteed annual wage, press for debate on the measure and also concretely propagandize for amendments to the Lodge-McMahon bill to eliminate its bad features.


Health Bill

Another bill of some importance to millions of Americans is the bipartisan federal health aid bill introduced by Senator Hill, Democrat from Alabama, and sponsored by four other Democrats and five Republicans. It is a bill designed to correct the “shocking deficiencies in health protection which result each year in 200,000 needless deaths, in sickness, poor health and tremendous economic loss.”

Here are some revelations Senator Hill makes about this deplorable situation: “Most Americans take for granted their local health departments. They do not know that less than 10,000,000 of our 146,000,000 people have professional, full-time health departments to guard their water, milk and meat supplies from contamination, to supervise disposal of sewage and garbage, and control of communicable diseases.”

Yes, it is hard to believe that these elementary health guards are not enjoyed by the great majority of our people – hard to believe when the government spends 42 billions a year, 32 billions for war and its aftermath. It is hard to believe that in this field of the people’s health “sweat shop salaries” are paid to the personnel so that in the last six years the turnover among state health officers has been 75 per cent.

The Hill bill, with its bipartisan sponsorship, has a good chance of being passed. Undoubtedly federal aid to localities will bring commensurate improvement. The danger in the Hill bill for federal aid to public health is that it may direct attention, perhaps even with design, away from the issue of individual health insurance from cradle to grave, which is an altogether different matter.


Minimum Wage

In the House the question of the minimum wage is coming to the fore. Representative John W. McCormack, Democratic floor leader, hopes that the House and Labor Committee will quickly bring out a bill to raise the minimum wage to seventy-five cents. Republican floor leader Martin of Massachusetts opposes quick action. He believes that “a bill of this magnitude” should be carefully considered in the committee. Mr. McCormack reminds his opponent that the issue has been “heard and re-heard many times.” Indeed, who but the rankest exploiter of labor needs more arguments on the need to raise the floor on wages!

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