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Susan Green

Bill Leaves Injunction Issue Open

(7 February 1949)

From Labor Action, Vol. 13 No. 6, 7 February 1949, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Unable to risk a rebellion by labor leaders smack at the beginning of his administration, President Truman got his Senate whip, Lucas, to put pressure on Senator Thomas, chairman of the Senate Labor Committee, to stop dilly-dallying on Taft-Hartley repeal. The result was that all eight Democrats on the committee voted for, and all five Republicans voted against, a resolution for the repeal of T-H, for the restoration of the Wagner Act and for committee hearings up till February 10 on amendments to the Wagner Act. Thus was the ground laid for the introduction to the committee of the administration’s proposed labor bill, which is now before it.

Before taking up the administration’s bill, it should be noted that this one-package proposition is not what the labor leaders wanted. Labor leaders wanted a two-package procedure: first and without delay, the repeal of T-H and the restoration of the Wagner Act as the law of the land; then at a more leisurely pace and with greater thoroughness of discussion, the legislation of amendments to the Wagner Act. Thus the Wagner Act, more favorable to labor, would be the law while the protracted discussion on amendments took place.

Under the one-package procedure the restrictive T-H Act remains the law until amendments to the Wagner Act are agreed upon. However, it is not likely that labor officials will press on this point.

Flies in the Ointment

The most publicized feature of the administration bill is that it would discontinue the right of court injunction in what is called “national paralysis strikes” such as mine, railroad, etc. Whereas T-H provides for an 80-day strike delay with power of the president to resort to court injunction – which power President Truman has used – the new administration bill would provide for a 30-day cooling-off period without specifying any court injunction powers.

There are several flies in this ointment. Labor leaders question the worth of the omission of court injunction powers from the administration bill, feeling that the government will resort to injunctions if it wants to, bolstered by court decisions of the past. Government lawyers, interviewed by newspaper men, interpret the administration bill as “implying” injunction. Democratic Senators who will be acting on the bill if it is voted out of committee, do not believe the President really wants to be stripped of the power of court injunction in the case of “national paralysis strikes.”

But Drew Pearson really let the cat out of the bag. He said that the President indeed wants the power of court injunction but hesitated at arousing the ire of labor officialdom and concluded he doesn’t need to because, forsooth, the Senate is sure to include the power of injunction in any bill. Certainly if the Republicans – spearheaded by Senator Taft with his fifteen amendments to the Wagner Act as a starter – and the Southern Democrats get together, they will be able to put “teeth” into the labor bill. In this case, the President will get what he wants without taking responsibility for it – a neat trick!

If the administration bill were to become law, there would be an end of some of the more obnoxious provisions of T-H. The administration bill would abolish the ban on the closed shop and the regulation of the union shop, non-Communist affidavits for union officers, restrictions on union welfare and retirement funds, the limitation on union political activities, the ban on unionization of foremen and the ban on strikes by government workers. Needless to say, there will be heated discussion around these points.

Retained in the administration bill is the ban on secondary boycotts, which would impair labor’s effectiveness, and also the ban on jurisdictional strikes. In both these instances the power of court injunction would remain in the National Labor Relations Board.

The Republicans will try to extend the hearings in the Senate Labor Committee beyond February 10. If the Democrats maintain their solid bloc, their opponents will not be able to hold up the bill. However, once the bill gets to the floor of the Senate, the sparks will fly and there will be plenty of delay.


Filibuster Fight

In the Senate Rules Committee, discussions proceed on changing the right of filibuster. This is preliminary to tackling the President’s civil rights program. The Republicans seem to have taken the lead, strange as this may seem. They approve cloture on a two-thirds vote. Some Republicans came out for a simple majority vote, but this idea didn’t get too far with the Republicans as a whole, who are evidently trying to ride two horses.

They are being very militant to change the rules, with an eye on the Negro vote for 1950. On the other hand, on some issues they will have to rely on a coalition with the Southern Democrats, as for instance on labor legislation. The Southerners consider the Republican resolution calling for cloture on a two-thirds vote as not too distasteful – a two-thirds vote is a big vote to get for closing debate.

To show how “reasonable” they are, the Southern Senators have expressed their willingness to go along with a change in rules to protect issues of national security and foreign relations from the filibuster, but they want the opportunity to kill civil rights legislation.

Housing and Rents

Action is under way on housing and rent control. A procedure has been agreed upon between Senate and House leaders. The House committee is to go ahead with the legislation to extend rent controls while the Senate committee will take up general housing legislation. This should expedite matters.

On the issue of general housing there are now three bills up for consideration: the administration bill calling for 1,050,000 new units in seven years; the Republican bill introduced in the Senate providing for 600,000 new units in six years; and another Republican bill introduced in the House fixing the number of new units at 800,000 in six years. Most people have a fuzzy idea of what a “unit” is. Is it an apartment house? Is it any house, apartment or private? A unit, be it known, is the living quarters for one family, namely one single apartment or one single private house.

With the population of the country at around 143,000,000 two years ago, and the number of families at around 35,000.000 in 1940, the generous administration provision for 1,050,000 new units in seven years won’t go very far to solve the housing shortage; 800,000 units in six years will make less difference; and 600,000 in six years will be indeed a tiny drop in the bucket. Thus government aid to housing doesn’t look too promising at its best – and private enterprise has very little to worry about on this score.


Legalized Tapping

A law that must be dragged from the small-item department of the news and given full publicity, is the one asked for by Attorney General Clark. He wishes to legalize wiretapping and to permit evidence so procured to be used in court hearings.

This attempt to rob an individual of his privacy will be fought by the labor, liberal and socialist movements. Labor leaders are slated to appear at the hearings to oppose Clark’s bill.

Ten years ago another attorney general, Cummings, recommended a bill authorizing wiretapping under certain circumstances – and supposedly with certain safeguards to personal rights. This bill failed to become a law only because Congress adjourned before the Senate could act on amendments desired by the House. Today, with the red spy rings, to justify every infringement of personal liberty, the opposition must speak up and speak loud to prevent, the Clark bill from becoming law.

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Last updated: 30 December 2018