Art Preis Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index  |   ETOL Main Page

Art Preis

Wall Street Interests Push
Senate Bill to Smash Unions

New Measure Would Outlaw Strikes,
Impose Open Shop

(30 June 1945)

From The Militant, Vol. IX No. 26, 30 June 1945, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Big Business on June 20 introduced into the United States Senate a legislative “master plan’’ to paralyze and destroy the American labor movement in the post-war period.

This is the Ball-Burton-Hatch-Hill Federal Labor Relations Bill designed to abrogate the progressive features of the Wagner Labor Relations Act, the Norris-LaGuardia Anti-Injunction Act and other federal statutes for the protection of union collective bargaining rights.

Termed by its sponsors an “Industrial Peace” bill, the measure is actually a virtual declaration of war against the most cherished and hard-won rights of labor – free, unregimented unions, union security through the closed shop and, above all, the right to strike.

Its origin and sponsorship, the praise it has immediately evoked from the most rabidly anti-labor papers, the welcome embrace promptly accorded it by outspoken Congressional labor-haters are sufficient to brand the true character and purpose of this bill.

Bill Denounced

At the same time, not in many years has there been such immediate, vigorous and unanimous denunciation of a proposed federal statute as the blast unloosed against the Ball-Burton-Hatch- Hill bill by every single sector and prominent leader of the American union movement.

No more sweeping plan to strangle organized labor has ever been introduced into the federal legislature. Virtually every provision long sought by the corporate monopolies and their agents to crush unionism are incorporated in this measure.

In its broad features it embodies the infamous “five-point” program drafted by the National Association of Manufacturers and U.S. Chamber of Commerce. In its elaborate details, so complex that only a skilled lawyer can understand the tricky implications, it closes every conceivable loophole for free unionism. Among the basic features of the bill are the following:

1. It would virtually outlaw all strikes.

Prohibition of strikes and compulsory arbitration are dictated in all disputes “affecting public utilities or services such as milk, coal or oil.” This could be interpreted to include every basic industry – all of which affect the “public interest.”

Outlaw Strikes

Strikes arising from “grievance disputes,” involving the application of the terms of existing union contracts, are prohibited. This would permit employers to violate contracts with impunity, pending interminable mediation, arbitration, government “studies” and court action, all provided in the bill.

2. It would make impossible the maintenance of union security and closed shop contracts.

No closed shop contract could be granted unless the union secures, in a government-regulated vote, a 60 percent majority of all workers in a plant for such a contract and unless the union represents 75 percent of the workers employed.

Regulation of conditions of membership would be determined by the government. No union whose rules for membership did not meet with the standards of “democracy” held by the employers – including the admission of scabs and known company agents – could get a closed shop contract.

3. The bill calls for a sweeping federal “investigation” of all unions by a proposed new five- man’ Federal Labor Relations Board and the preparation of further laws, based on these “investigations.” to “clean up” the unions.

Based on Slander

This provision, based on the slanderous inference that all unions are “rackets,” would subject the labor movement to an unprecedented witch-hunt. All the hooks, records and confidential matters of the union would be thrown open for the inspection of the employers through their government agents.

From this “investigation” would stem laws for government regulation of union elections, inspection of union books, a ban on labor in politics, restriction of the use of union funds, as in strikes or political campaigns, restriction of dues and initiation fees.

A corps of federal inspectors would be established who could invade a union at any time, such as during a strike, seize its records, impound its funds, and harass its leaders.

4. It would “modify” the most progressive features of the Wagner Labor Relations Act.

Unions “as well as employers” would be subject to government restraint for so-called “unfair labor practices.” Under this heading, efforts of a union to organize workers, oppose company-union and anti-labor elements, eliminate spies and scabs, enforce union regulations, might be termed “unfair labor practices.”

Cannery Workers

Over 1,500,000 workers now covered by the definition of interstate commerce and protected by the Wagner Act would be deprived of this safeguard through a “narrowed” interpretation of the scope of the Wagner bill. A specific clause of the new bill would deprive cannery and packing workers – under the heading of “agricultural workers” – of Wagner Act protection.

5. It would cut the heart out of the Norris-LaGuardia Anti-Injunction Bill and subject unions to harassment by injunctions and suits.

The Federal Labor Relations Board proposed in the new bill would be permitted to seek court injunctions to halt any activities of a union. It would permit employers virtually unrestricted right to harass unions with court actions for “restitution, reparation ... or other relief.”

These provisions, as well as many others, make the new bill a “lawyer’s paradise.” It provides so many features for court review and suits that the unions could be tied up in endless litigation and be driven into financial bankruptcy.

6. The proposed Federal Labor Relations Board could impose harsh penalties.

If a union or union official failed to accept any decision of the board, it could withdraw recognition of the union or its officers as bargaining agents for the workers.

In addition, anyone whom the board declared to be “impeding” its work would be subject to a $5,000 fine and a year in prison.

No greater blow could have been dealt at this time to the phony capital-labor “peace charter” which the union officials have been trying to peddle to the workers, than the introduction of this vicious bill. It strips bare and exposes the real aims of the American plutocracy.

Preis Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index  |   ETOL Main Page

Last updated: 5 November 2018