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Susan Green

House Passes Wood Bill, Then Kills It

Taft-Hartley Stays

(9 May 1949)

From Labor Action, Vol. 13 No. 19, 9 May 1949, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

MAY 4 – In spite of fundamental concessions already made by the Democratic leadership of Congress, a slim majority of the House passed the Wood labor bill yesterday. This is the bill which is Taff-Hartley under another name – almost literally.

The day before, the Democratic speaker of the House, Rayburn, had already announced that his party was ready to accept that feature of T-H which is among its most reactionary: the injunction strikebreaking process. Most illuminating was his next comment: “This is what I thought should have been in it in the first place.”

This acceptance of Taft-Hartleyism, said Rayburn, was no reluctant concession for him! No wonder these masked Democratic Taft-Hartleyites would have no burning desire to stop the more extreme version represented by the. Wood bill!

The Dem-Republican coalition In the House has won out again. While it is still uncertain whether something as monstrous as the Wood bill can get through Congress as a whole, there is no doubt that labor once again has its back to the wall, in spite of Its election “success.” When will the labor leadership decide that they cannot depend on this party of capitalism which they enthusiastically voted into power last November? Isn’t it time for every union militant to raise his voice loudly and confidently and demand the building of a LABOR PARTY?


The House of Representatives, before which labor legislation is now being debated, is treating the country to a spectacle which would be most amusing if it were not so serious for the working people.

The two bills before the House are the Wood bill supported by the Dixiecrats and Republicans, designated as the hard labor bill, and the Lesinski bill sponsored by the administration Democrats and approved by labor leaders. What is happening is that the advocates of the Wood Bbll are softening it down, while those for the Lesinski bill are busy hardening that up.

The result is that the difference between the two bills narrows. Whichever bill is passed, there will still be on the books many of the provisions of the Taft-Hartley Law under a new name. And workers will again have been shown that there isn’t too much difference between what the Democratic Party and the Republican Party hand out to labor.

Denatured Wood Bill

The process of softening up the Wood bill was effected by the passage of three amendments to it. This was done in an effort to gain the support of the fifteen or twenty members of the House who waver between the two bills and whose vote will determine the issue.

The first of the amendments, all of which are supposed to make the bill more favorable to labor, preserves the voting rights of striking employees in elections on union endorsement for six months, even though the strikers have been permanently replaced in their jobs. The original Wood bill provides only ninety days’ grace, while the Taft-Hartley Act gives none at all.

The second amendment would liberalize the provision of the Wood bill which limits sympathetic strike action to members of the same local union.

The third amendment provides for four conditions before the NLRB can ask for strike injunctions, namely, an investigation, issuance of a complaint, the threat of irreparable injury, and so-called public interest. Any babe in the woods can see that these conditions do not much alter the anti-labor injunction weapon.

These amendments to the Wood bill were passed by the House, which means that some of the Democratic opponents of the Wood bill voted for these amendments. Democratic leaders of course want to defeat the Wood bill, not amend it. However, so little faith and fight is there in the Democratic Party as a whole that Democrats who will not vote for the Wood bill, did support amendments on the theory that it has a good chance to pass and might as well be as soft as possible.

Hardening Lesinski

The amending strategy of the Dixiegops was countered in kind by the administration Democrats. A conference was rapidly held by Secretary of Labor Tobin, AFL President Green, AFL Railway Clerks President Harrison, CIO Counsel Goldberg, Assistant Secretary of Labor Gibson, and the solicitor of Department of Labor, Tyson.

It was reported by Joseph A. Loftus, New York Times Washington correspondent, that when the House takes up the labor-legislation issue again on Tuesday, Democratic leaders will offer five amendments to the Lesinski bill. These are all anti-labor amendments and run counter to what labor leaders have wanted.

They are as follows: (1) would permit the government to seize struck plants in what is called national emergency strikes while an emergency board studies the dispute – a well-known strike-breaking technique; (2) would require loyalty oaths of employers and union officers – of course the inclusion of employers is a farce; (3) would compel unions to give financial reports if they want the services of the NLRB – unions protest against this compulsion to make public their financial strength; (4) would give the poor, gagged employers more explicit free- speech guarantees; (5) would require unions to bargain in good faith – a general provision which could be put to many anti-labor uses.

Paying the Price

While CIO President Murray denied that the “CIO has altered its stand on the type of legislation that should be enacted to repeal the T-H Act,” it is very improbable that CIO Counsel Goldberg would agree to such amendments to the Lesinski bill on his own responsibility. So the labor leaders are paying the price of relying on capitalist politicians – namely, they are submitting to the squeeze.

Three other developments on labor legislation in the past week are worthy of note.

Without batting an eyelash, Mr. Truman, in his inimitable bull-in- the-China-closet way, declared that he wouldn’t hand out any political melons to those who do not “support the Democratic platform.” He added that he would regard representatives’ votes on the labor bill as a test of “party loyalty.” As a result the Dixiecrats led off in the House with a virtuous protest against “any patronage bribe,” proclaiming that “their votes could not be bought.”

Another high spot of the week was when Representative Anthony Cavalcante, Democrat of Pennsylvania, introduced an amendment to the Wood bill making it an unfair labor practice for an employer to refuse employment because of race, color or religion, or for a union to refuse membership for any of these reasons. Absolute silence greeted this progressive amendment when the “ayes” were called for. Then jeers wept up from the Republican side of the House; probably the Republicans took the amendment as a try at splitting Dixiecrat support for the Wood bill.

The last noteworthy incident of the week was when Representative Arthur K. Klein, Democrat of New York, came out with “a hair-raising idea.” He suggested that organized labor engage in a country-wide one- day work stoppage to demonstrate its united opposition to the T-H Law. Quite an idea, coming from a Democrat! Needless to say, both sides of the House “repudiated” the idea in no uncertain terms. Labor leaders gave the idea silent repudiation. However, the rank and file of labor could give the matter thought. Tim way things are going, labor’s Remand to repeal the T-H Law and reinstate the Wagner Act will be badly defeated.

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