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Susan Green

Senate Government by Injunction Vote:
Challenge to Labor

(18 July 1949)

From Labor Action, Vol. 13 No. 29, 18 July 1949, pp. 1 & 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The Senate has passed legislation which, in the words of Florida’s Senator Pepper, is “nothing but a bobtailed edition of the Taft-Hartley Act enacted by the 80th Congress.” The crux of the dispute between the administration Democrats and the Republican-Dixiecrat bloc was the legislative authority for injunctions in what are called “national emergency strikes.” (President Truman a while ago announced that he had injunctive powers without special act of Congress.) Before the showdown came in the Senate last week, the administration forces had already compromised their stand by consenting to include in new legislation a provision for plant seizure by the government. This compromise had President Truman’s blessing, in spite of his public avowal that he is for unconditional repeal of T-H.

Senator Taft sought by amendments to guarantee that the administration’s Thomas bill would be another T-H Law except in name. Also in a “compromising mood,” he came up with an amendment to provide BOTH the anti-labor injunction and the’ plant seizure techniques to break a “national emergency strike.”

The administration forces offered their own amendment to. strike the injunction alternative from the bill, leaving only the seizure provision – this at least they would “do for labor”! So sure of victory were the administration Democrats that Senate Majority Leader Lucas promised Truman that the amendment was as good as passed. However, with a narrow margin of 44 votes for the administration and 46 against, the amendment to eliminate the injunction provision was lost.

T-H Still on Books

The Senate then quickly passed the Taft amendment providing for both injunction and plant seizure to break a “national emergency strike” by a vote of 50 to 40. A couple of days later, on June 30, the defeat of the administration forces was completed. By a vote of 45 to 40, the Senate accepted the whole gamut of twentyeight Taft amendments to the Thomas bill. And, leaving no step untaken, the Senate passed the Thomas “repeal” bill, as amended by Taft, 51 to 42. The outcome is ... “nothing but a bobtailed edition of the Taft-Hartley Act.” All the essentials of that vicious law have been preserved.

However, the cloak of innocence does not too well fit the Peppers, Humphreys, Douglasses, et al., either. For, in making the compromise on plant seizure to break “national emergency strikes,” they were complying only with the letter of their promise to labor, not with its essence. For these “friends of labor” in the Democratic Party also take the anti-labor position that when a strike reaches the stage when it can be won, the government must somehow step in to send the strikers back to work.

Capitalist politicians of both parties think in terms of coercing strikers back to work, never in terms of coercing the bosses to grant workers’ demands. And we might just as well say that those labor leaders who indicated approval of plant seizure as a compromise for the hateful injunctions, were dangerously near adopting the same view as the politicians on the moot question of “national emergency strikes.”

As to the present status of labor legislation, the concensus is that the 81st Congress has done its all in this field, and that T-H will continue on the statute books to become the No. 1 domestic issue in the 1950 congressional elections.

More than any other issue before the 81st Congress, T-H has been a direct bone of contention between capital and labor. The part played openly and directly by labor has been apparent to all. Not only was the political action of organized labor the main factor in returning Truman to the White House and giving him a Democratic Congress, but labor leaders have been publicly needling their Democratic “friends” to make good on campaign promises, especially on T-H.

The power behind the Republican-Dixiecrat bloc has not been so obvious though it is generally known that the reactionary Congressional bloc has its “connections.” Joseph Alsop in the New York Tribune of July 4 gives us something more concrete. About how Senator Taft’ rallied his support, Alsop wrote as follows: “He had to build roaring political’ fires under such senators as Capehart and Hendrickson of New Jersey. These men quite openly hankered to vote the other way; yet they yielded in the end to the BUSINESS LEADERS and Republican organization chieftains mobilized by Taft.”

This major capital-versus-labor issue of T-H repeal will in 1950 again be taken to the ballot box, although in 1948 the voters decided it in favor of labor. Organized labor is going to put all it has behind the drive to defeat congressmen who voted against labor in this session. A.F. Whitney, president of the Railroad Trainmen – who smoked the pipe of peace with Truman even though this “champion of labor” had invoked the injunction provisions of the T-H Act against railway labor – the other, day used some very angry words against Congress and then got down to the business of how to defeat Taft and the 32 Republicans and 17 Democrats who supported Taft.

Again, the July 4 issue of the CIO News issues a call to CIO members for all-out political action in 1950, urging them to register, to make their $1 contributions to PAC. “Apparently,” says the appeal, “the people’s victory in 1948 was not decisive enough. We can and we will win in November 1950 by that overwhelming majority that will remove the obstructionists and will insure the complete enactment of the people’s program.” And Green of the AFL, proclaiming that labor “will never swallow the injunction,” is girding the loins of the AFL League for Political Education for the 1950 fight.

On the opposite side of the T-H issue, Senator Taft, the standard-bearer of the reactionary congressional coalition, is starting to stump for re-election to Congress this summer – fourteen months before the 1950 election.

Who supplies Taft with the sinews of war? Again quoting Joseph Alsop in the July 4 New York Tribune, here’s the answer: “While the Republicans sanctimoniously complain about ‘outside labor money,’ it is an open secret that right wing business men all over the country are already laying the cash on the line to aid the Taft campaign.”

Thus are the battle lines drawn for the T-H fight in 1950. But there is something, askew with these lines. For, while business properly chose Taft, a worthy capitalist politician, for its political leader, labor also chooses a capitalist politician, Truman, and a capitalist party, the Democratic Party, to represent labor’s cause. And both Truman and his party have proved unworthy of labor’s confidence. Truman, for instance has himself on seven different occasions made use of this very T-H Act against labor.

There is a very fundamental reason why labor cannot rely on capitalist politicians, especially not to repeal the T-H law. It must be remembered that the T-H Act was the congealing of the post-war efforts of business to clip labor’s wings. All through the war, capital was uneasy about the important role of organized labor, even though plainly for the purpose of keeping the workers in tow to fight the war. So, after war there had to be a law, you remember, “to safeguard the interests of the worker against the union as well as against management.”

The basic struggle between capital and’labor that only socialism will end, here manifests itself. Capital fears and must fight a strong labor movement because a strong labor movement can get a greater share of the national income, leaving less for the capitalists. So the T-H Act was devised as a weapon of the capitalist class to weaken the labor movement.

This being the case, can the organized labor movement, can Whitney, Murray and Green, rely on Truman and the Democratic Party to represent labor on this issue? Even though there are professed friends of : labor in the Democratic Party, the ties between a capitalist party and the capitalist class are too deep and ramified for labor to trust it, to trust it on an issue which goes to the very heart of the hostility between capital and labor.

Must not labor, therefore, prepare for the 1950 contest by beginning NOW to form its own independent labor party?

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