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Truman Hedging on Outright
Repeal of Slave Labor Law

Plans New “Substitute” Bill to Continue Union Restraints

(15 November 1948)

From The Militant, Vol. 12 No. 46, 15 November 1948, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

On the morning after Election Day, Truman greeted the news of his victory with, “Labor did it!” Before another 24 hours went by, Truman and his advisers began to hedge on the key campaign promise to labor – the unqualified pledge to repeal the Taft-Hartley Act.

Now, we are informed by Administration-inspired preps reports, Truman intends to push for repeal of the Slave Labor Law – BUT. That big “but” is his plan to seek passage of a substitute anti-labor law which will contain some of the worst features of the Taft-Hartley Act itself.

If Truman is already trying to welch on his one unambiguous campaign promise, ‘we can well imagine the sad fate in store for his other promises: on civil rights, which his administration consistently violated; on inflation, which his arms budget will fuel still further; on housing, which has remained in acute crisis.

On Nov. 4, Truman’s Secretary of Labor Maurice J. Tobin revealed that the President is preparing a new labor law to offer at the same time that he calls on the 81st Congress to repeal the Taft-Hartley Act. This substitute law, said Secretary Tobin, will be “fair, to both workers and management.” That’s what was said about the Taft-Hartley Act too.

Pressuring Labor

The Administration is already pressuring organized labor to “get together” with the employers, looking to an “agreement” on the provisions of a new law. The press – adapting its tactics to the new situation – is beginning to hammer away on the need for labor to make “concessions” to the employers.

Industry, reports labor correspondent Louis Stark in the Nov. 6 N.Y. Times, has reacted with “surprise” and “pleasure” at the opportunity Truman is now affording the employers to help write another “fair” law’ regulating the unions. If the Taft-Hartley Act is to go, they will not lack “substitutes.” Truman’s own proposals for union-curbing, legislation provide an ample supply.

Among his own formal proposals during the past two years have been a work-or-be-drafted law; “fact-finding” commissions and 60-day “cooling-off” periods before strikes, binding arbitration in all' labor, disputes involving interpretations of : contracts; outlawing of “jurisdictional” strikes and secondary boycotts; establishment of government labor boards to intervene in strikes; government seizure of plants and the use of injunctions against strikes affecting the “public welfare.”

Net Effect

The net effect of any or all of these restrictions would be to continue many of the basic principles of the Taft-Hartley Act.

Louis Stark, in the Nov. 7 N.Y. Times, reports that “those conversant with the views of influential union figures believe that they would be willing to give the nod to a law which would encompass” most or all of these principles. AFL President William Green four days after the elections approved the idea of Congress enacting new labor lows “fairly acceptable to all.” To show how ready he is for “concessions” to the employers, Green even called on the workers for “increased productivity” – more work – “and that will apply to bricklayers as well as coal miners.”

If union leaders like Green are ready to hand back to employers what the workers have just voted to take away, the Democratic politicians are even more; ready to “go easy” on the fulfillment of their campaign promises. Typical of the post-election attitude of even the most “liberal” Democrats is the statement of Chester Bowles, newly elected Governor of Connecticut.

Tact and Compromise

Bowles, whom even the Wallaceites supported, stated on Nov. 4 that his administration will reflect “a kind, of practical; liberalism” which “even conservatives” will respect as “a good, clean operation.” He would, avoid the mistake of the New Deal which, “was always whaling the hell out of conservatives so that they got frightened and failed to function ... There’s got to be tact and compromise.”

No more Truman-talk about “gluttons of privilege” and “Wall Street reactionaries.” The new theme song of the Truman Democrats is “Tact and Compromise.”

A cunning campaign is under way to rob the workers of what they considered a victory against the Taft-Hartley Act. On the one hand, the press is continuously reminding labor that the majority in the 81st Congress, both Senate and House, is still composed of those who voted for the Taft-Hartley Act. On the other hand, Truman Administration spokesmen and certain union leaders are spreading the idea that if Congress is to be persuaded to repeal the Taft-Hartley Act, it will be necessary for labor to agree to a “reasonable substitute.”

But a majority voted for outright repeal of the Taft-Hartley Act – with no “ifs, buts or maybes.” They didn’t vote for “substitutes,” They didn’t vote for “tact and compromise.” They expect Truman to live up to his pledge and on the opening day of Congress to demand immediate scrapping of the Slave Labor Law, without “bargaining” or equivocation. Smash the Taft-Hartley Act first – discuss anything else afterwards.

Straws in Wind

These straws in the wind should cure the labor ranks of any illusions that they can afford to sit back and wait for Truman and the Democrats to carry out their promises. Labor will win only what it fights for. Truman will carry out only those promises that he is pressured and forced into carrying out. That is why the fight to repeal the Slave Labor Law will have to be pressed harder than ever. And to the slogan “Smash the Taft-Hartley Act!,” must now be added, “Accept No Substitutes!”

Labor will have to be mobilized on a national scale and in battle array. The need of the hour remains – as it has since the beginning of the post-war anti-labor offensive – the conveying in Washington, D.C. of a National Emergency Congress of Labor, representing all the unions.

Such a Congress of Labor, as proposed by the AFL International Typographical Union and endorsed by the CIO National Maritime Union, must launch a united militant labor offensive as the only way to assure that Congress will repeal the Taft-Hartley Act in the shortest possible time – and with no “substitutes.” And that the other Truman promises will be carried out.

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