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Susan Green

Truman Claims Right
to Injunction Power

(14 February 1949)

From Labor Action, Vol. 13 No. 7, 14 February 1949, pp. 1 & 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Undefined “inherent powers” are the resort of dictators. Such powers constitute “the-State-it-is-I” principle of government. Well, in the past week we were informed that the Truman administration believes it has such undefined “inherent powers” to break strikes.

Secretary of Labor Tobin declared himself to this effect testifying before the Senate Labor Committee. Attorney General Clark gave the committee a written statement to the same effect. President Truman told reporters lie has “constitutional and implied powers” sufficient to procure anti-labor injunctions. Such left-wing Democrats as Paul Douglas and Claude Pepper joined the chorus of “inherent powers” advocates.

All this came out in connection with the debate on the administration’s labor bill now before the Senate Labor Committee and pertains to the particular provision of the bill which calls for a thirty-day cooling- off period in strikes that involve the “national health and security” such as mine and railroad strikes. The Republicans, who favor continuance of the main features of the Taft-Hartley law, argued that while T-H calls for an eighty-day cooling-off period with the right of injunction by the government to enforce the provision, the new administration bill makes no provision for enforcing the cooling-off period. Whereupon the cat came out of the bag.

Legal Skullduggery

Secretary Tobin assured the committee that “No President of the United States ever is going to permit the economy of the nation to be brought to its knees in a great national emergency.” Then the opinion of Attorney General Clark on the subject was read. This authority on the laws of the land holds that even in the absence of specific injunctive relief in the bill, the President would have authority to seek an injunction in emergencies affecting national health and safety. The government always has that right, holds Clark, when not specifically deprived of it. To fortify his position he referred to the government’s injunction in the Lewis-miners case, upheld by the Supreme Court on the ground that the government has the right “to protect itself” in spite of the anti-injunction sections of the Norris-LaGuardia Act because the government is not specifically mentioned in that act.

The following day in his press conference President Truman stated that his Attorney General had told him that the “President’s powers were sufficient to meet such emergencies.” When asked by a reporter why. this power was not specifically included in the administration’s labor bill, Mr. Truman replied that it was not necessary since the Attorney General had advised him that the President has constitutional and implied powers. Mr. Truman feels that in time of emergency the President has “immense power to do what is right for the country.” He does not believe his powers have “to be spelled out in the proposed law.”

The implications of this position are far-reaching and sinister. It would mean that in important labor struggles the President could act as a virtual dictator to defeat labor. Once the principle of undefined “inherent powers” is accepted, there’s no telling where it will lead. Certainly the head of the capitalist government is not likely to declare that it is “right for the country” for, let us say, hundreds of thousands of miners or railroad workers, who may be on strike for better wages and conditions, to be granted their demands. It is a foregone conclusion that such strikes by workers for better health and greater security, will automatically be considered against the “national health and security.”

Republicans Crow

It should be recalled that some two years ago during the railroad strike, President Truman actually sent a special message to Congress that he wanted strikers drafted into the army. With the principle of undefined “inherent powers” accepted, a president might not even have to go to Congress to get strikers drafted into the army.

The anti-democratic position taken by the Democrats on this point has given the Republican senators a decided advantage in the debate. Senator Taft of T-H fame now makes more sense to those who believe in anti-labor injunctions, than the administration docs. He said, among other things: “I disagree with the attorney general and think he is certainly wrong. I don’t know of any inherent right of the President to get injunctions in a national emergency. If you want, to do that you ought to say so in so many words. You ought to say it in clear law” Republican Senator Morse made his contribution to the effect that “the administration is trying to work both sides of the street by telling labor it opposes the injunction feature and telling the public it has it anyway.”

Even a Republican can be right sometimes, and Morse has almost hit the nail on the head. In fact, Mr. Truman in his press conference referred to above, all but admitted that he first assured himself of his power to get injunctions against labor by getting his Attorney General’s opinion; then, as a grandiose gesture to labor, he did not put it into the bill – it was not necessary.

The clarification by the administration on the subject of “inherent powers” has placed the officialdom of the CIO and AFL in something of a fix. They have stated their approval of the administration bill. Now they find themselves in the company of the Republicans on this business of “inherent powers.” Logically and according to Attorney General Clark’s own opinion, labor leaders should demand that government, as industry, be “specifically deprived” of the right to seek court injunctions against labor. Although Arthur Goldberg, CIO general counsel, has stated that he would make “some constructive suggestions to clarify” certain provisions of the administration’s bill, it is not likely that he will ask for that much clarification.

The basic logic of the capitalist government has revealed itself in this debate on the right of injunction. It is clear that no matter what the law says or does not say, the government will find the loophole “to protect itself” against its mortal enemy – militant labor.

On the other hand, labor’s forte is the justice of its cause, the strength in its numbers and in its solidarity and its ability to convince “the public” that labor’s wellbeing is also public wellbeing. This is labor’s forte not only in strikes but in the field of politics also, where it must make strides toward the goal of a workers’ government which will not consider militant labor its mortal enemy.

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