The Taft-Hartley Act (1947), or Taft-Hartley Labor Act, was perhaps the single greatest legislative achievement of the 20th century, passed by a Republican Congress in override of President Harry Truman's veto. The Taft-Hartley Act single-handedly ended the dire and growing problem of strikes involving millions of workers after World War II, and saved capitalism from the labor unions in the United States. Ever since the Act's passage, Democrats have unsuccessfully attempted to repeal it.
The Act itself was written by the conservative legal scholar Robert Taft, who was then the Majority Leader in the U.S. Senate and a three-time presidential candidate. It was sponsored by Taft and also by long time U.S. Representative Fred Hartley.
The Act achieved the following:
- bans unfair union practices such as secondary strikes
- prohibits the jurisdictional strike
- outlaws closed shops
- authorizes the President to seek a federal court injunction to require an eighty-day cooling-off period for a strike threatening a national interest.
- prohibited unions and corporations from making independent expenditures in support of or opposition to federal candidates
- gave federal courts jurisdiction to enforce collective bargaining agreements
Opposition and Criticism
Organized labor in the U.S., including the AFL and the CIO, were predictably critical of the act because it significantly weakened labor unions. President Truman called it a "slave labor bill." Critics have argued that the decline of organized labor in the private sector, initially caused by the Taft-Hartley Act and continued later by the anti-union policies of President Ronald Reagan, has been a major contributing factor to increased income inequality in the U.S.
- Cockburn, Alexander. "How Many Democrats Voted for Taft-Hartley?" September 6, 2004. Counterpunch. http://www.counterpunch.org/2004/09/06/how-many-democrats-voted-for-taft-hartley/
- Noah, Timothy. "The United States of Inequality: Entry 6." September 12, 2010. Slate. http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/the_great_divergence/features/2010/the_united_states_of_inequality/the_great_divergence_and_the_death_of_organized_labor.html