Susan Green Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index  |   ETOL Main Page

Susan Green

Truman Dumping T-H Repeal

Key Democrat on House Labor Comittee,
Vote Crucial, Sent Abroad

(30 May 1949)

From Labor Action, Vol. 13 No. 22, 30 May 1949, pp. 1 & 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

In public President Truman beats his chest and reaffirms his support of Taft-Hartley repeal. In private he acts in such a way as to make repeal impossible or more difficult at this session of Congress, even if the administration Democrats could muster enough votes.

Quite a furor developed in Washington, among both Democrats and Republicans, when it became known this week that the president had quietly appointed Representative Augustine B. Kelley, Pennsylvania Democrat, for a five-week foreign assignment. Mr. Kelley is to go as United States delegate to the International Labor Organization conference in Geneva, to return in mid-July.

The point is that Kelley is the administration’s “strong man” on the closely divided House Labor Committee, from which further action must come. So close is the division in this committee that the Lesinski bill was originally reported out by a margin of one, 13–12. Plainly, Kelley’s presence is crucial for the administration Democrats, especially since there is real danger of the obnoxious Wood bill being voted out to the floor of the House once more.

“Responsibility Is Fixed”

When the news of Kelley’s appointment leaked out, it is reported that both Speaker Rayburn and House Democratic Leader McCormack were both embarrassed and angry; they had not been taken into Mr. Truman’s confidence.

House Republican Leader Martin was smart enough to say, for publication, “If there is no labor legislation, the responsibility is definitely fixed.” Other Republicans accused the president of not wanting labor legislation in this session of Congress, and of conniving to save the T-H issue for the 1950 election.

Mr. Kelley tried to pour oil on troubled waters by assuring fellow Democrats that he would fly back from Geneva on 24 hours’ notice “if my vote is needed either in committed or on the floor.” This assurance, however, didn’t go far with the editor of the New York Times, who wanted to know why someone less crucially placed could not have been sent to Geneva, and who concluded that Truman may be actively trying to prevent labor legislation!

Quite a contrast between what the so-called friend of labor in the White House says and what he does! Would AFL President William Green still say, as he did in Cleveland on May 17: “The president has not let us down in any way”?

What Will They Take?

There has been rumor a-plenty that labor leaders too are willing to delay labor legislation, make it an election issue for 1950, and hope for a more pro-labor Congress then. However, these rumors are not borne out by the statements of CIO and AFL leaders. Not only do labor leaders seem to seek positive action on labor legislation, but since the Wood bill was referred back to committee some three weeks ago, they have indicated the extent to which they are willing to yield on their original position.

In a letter by CIO General Counsel Goldberg to the congressional labor committees, he reaffirms the determination of the CIO to obtain repeal of T-H and to get the administration Thomas-Lesinski bill passed. However, the determination weakens in the course of the letter, as evidenced in the following paragraph:

In stating our position on the Thomas-Lesinski bill, which we continue to support, the CIO is not maintaining an unrealistic attitude of utopian perfectionism. We are mindful that in the legislative process there is room for alteration in any bill – particularly one dealing with so complex a problem as labor relations. But we stand solidly against any changes which impinge on basic principles, such as the use of injunctions to break strikes.”

Throughout the letter emphasis is placed on opposition to any legislative provision for anti-labor injunctions. However, nothing specific is said about what alteration the CIO will stand for.

Strikebreaking Green Light

The AFL, on the other hand, has been more outspoken and probably also voices the extent of the compromise that CIO leaders are willing to make. AFL President Green, interviewed in Cleveland, where top AFL leaders and the administrative committee of Labor’s League for Political Action have recently been in conference, openly stated that the AFL leaders would go along with the proposal to permit government seizure of struck plants.

Green would agree “to authorize the government to cope with national emergency walkouts by taking possession of strikebound plants for a thirty-day period” – so A.H. Raskin reports in the New York Times of May 18. But the AFL, like the CIO, is opposed to injunction provisions in labor legislation.

Here, then, is the major compromise labor leaders are willing to make – indeed so major a compromise that it is hard to believe even the traditionally compromising AFL leadership is willing to make it: For when has it happened that the seizure of struck plants has not been a strike-breaking device? It has been and will be a ruse to get strikers back to work on the old conditions, ostensibly for the government, which proceeds to make profits for the plant owners – all, of course, in an absolutely unbiased way.

Does the rank and file of organized labor know that its leadership is willing to approve such a strikebreaking provision, and what does the rank and file have to say about it?

Susan Green Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers’ Index  |   ETOL Main Page

Last updated: 1 August 2019