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Susan Green

Congress Stalls on Taft-Hartley

(11 April 1949)

From Labor Action, Vol. 13 No. 15, 11 April 1949, pp. 1 & 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The working people are going to get as resounding a slap in the face from Congress on labor legislation as they took on rent control.

The coalition between reactionary Republicans and Southern Democrats rules the Congressional roost. President Truman is reported to have abandoned his “get tough” policy towards Congress and to have adopted a mood of “compromise.” The result is not hard to guess. There will be enacted what is known as a “strong” labor bill – in plain English, an anti-labor bill.

Though the Thomas-Lesinski measure calling for the repeal of the Taft-Hartley Law and for the restoration of the Wagner Act – of course with a few labor-restricting amendments – was approved by both the Senate and House Labor Committees, the predictions are that this bill, more favorable to labor, will not be passed by either house.

The strategy of the reactionary coalition in the House of Representatives will be to control procedure. When the Lesinski bill is put before the House, its opponents will move to substitute the Wood bill.

Democratic Taft-Hartley

The Wood bill is the child of a Southern Democrat, John S. Wood of Georgia – anti-labor though he is, still a member of the House Labor Committee. The Wood bill contains virtually all the provisions of the T-H Law, and in some respects is even more offensive than that most offensive anti-labor legislation.

If the Wood bill is the one to be considered by the House, the representatives who feel beholden to labor to some extent would have the exhausting and time-consuming task of taking up each of the more than twenty-five sections of the bill, bit by bit, to try to amend them in order to tone down its anti-labor content.

The Washington reporter for the New York Times had this to say: “If the coalition plans are successful, the House’s product will be a bill strongly resembling the T-H Law but carrying a Democrat’s name.”

In the Senate the strategy of the ruling coalition, when the Thomas bill reaches the floor, will be to offer so many modifying amendments as to add up to another T-H Law. Officials of the AFL meeting in Washington expressed gloom over the outcome. Their one hope is in the dozen (or less) still doubtful senators.

According to the AFL, out of the 96 senators, 38 to 43 favor repeal of the T-H Law while 42 to 46 oppose it. The AFL will concentrate on these doubtful senators, who will be visited by spokesmen of the unions on a national, state and local level, though they are not at all optimistic about the result of their efforts.

Pollsters Here Again

In the meantime the capitalist class is also doing its bit to influence congressmen. As if polls have not been sufficiently discredited by the votes of the electorate last November – votes giving an overwhelming mandate for the repeal of the T-H Law – such powerful outfits as General Electric, Revere Copper & Brass Co., and Look magazine are busy “polling public sentiment” on labor legislation – for the benefit of congressmen.

Such Simple-Simon, biased and leading questions as these are asked: “Should labor law protect employees against unfair practices by union and management?” or “Should the union shop, under which a person is forced to join a union a short time after his employment, be unlawful?”

The citizen not knowing that it is a distortion to put union and management on the same basis in relation to employees, will naturally tend to give the answer the poll-takers want. Similarly, a question like the one above about the union shop will lead persons who don’t understand that a union shop is voted for by the majority of workers, to say he opposes any kind of “force.” In this way is “public sentiment” evaluated.

On the other hand, the manipulators of “public sentiment” have made it their business not to give publicity to a juicy bit of information about the origin of the T-H Law. A Washington attorney, name of Morgan, recently stated that he was the author of the T-H Law – he, and not Senator Taft and Representative Hartley, who were elected by the people to make the laws.

Mr. Morgan stated that he was employed by the Republican National Committee, which as we all know, is not the law-making body of the land, and that after the bill became law Mr. Morgan was paid $7,500 by the same Republican National Committee. Thus are the laws made under the system of capitalist democracy.

Democrats Stalling

The obvious purpose in both houses is to delay consideration of labor legislation as long as possible. Though the House was ready for the Lesinski bill, the matter of procedure was referred to the Rules Committee, where the wordy representatives killed considerable time. Now, it is reported, the issue will be delayed until after the Easter vacation.

In the Senate no predictions at all are made as to when labor legislation will be taken up. The upshot of this planful delay is that the T-H Law continues in operation, militating against labor in its day-by-day struggle. But more especially will this disadvantage be felt when new contract negotiations between labor and management start this spring.

It is explained by Washington correspondents that the debacle of the Truman program is due to the fact that the Southern Democrats hold the balance of power in Congress. This die-hard, anti-labor, anti-Negro clique of reactionaries do number more than one fourth of the senators and almost one fourth of the representatives; they have had long seniority in many instances, and are therefore on leading committees.

However, President Truman knew the situation in his party when he made the promises he did to the electorate. Before the people he took responsibility for the Democratic Party as a whole. Now he capitulates to the most reactionary wing in his party. Whatever his political reasons may be for his sellout, they have no meaning to the mass of people who need a better life and more security in life, and who voted for Truman to give them these things.

Settle the Score

The most fruitful question to be asked at this point is whether organized labor is doing what it can to make the people’s mandate for the repeal of T-H felt. Is it sufficient for the CIO and AFL to have had witnesses to testify before the congressional Labor Committees and to have submitted briefs? Is it sufficient now for union officials to “work on” doubtful congressmen, quietly and in private?

It seems that what is required is a clear-cut reminder to the Democratic Party of its election promises – a reminder coming from the rank and file of the unions and from all working people. Mass demonstrations and protest meetings should carry more weight in the White House and in Congress than do labor leaders quietly calling, hat in hand.

The rank and file of the unions also have a score to settle directly with their leaders. Why do these leaders continue to tie the political fortunes of the working people to the kite of the Democratic Party? Why do not these leaders start now to form an independent labor party which will be able to function in the 1950 election? This is a score that the rank and file will have to settle with its leadership.

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