Repeal Taft-Hartley – Pass the PRO Act!
What is the Taft-Hartley Act?
In 1947, alarmed by the increasing power of unions to demand a fair share of the economic pie, the bosses instructed their minions in the U.S. Congress to pass the Taft-Hartley Act, perhaps the most anti-union piece of federal legislation in U.S. History. Among its more onerous provisions was the prohibition of the secondary boycott (for example, asking shoppers not to patronize stores selling scab products), and authorization for states to outlaw the union shop (in which new employers are required to join the union).
Labor leaders called it the “slave-labor bill” while President Truman argued that it was a “dangerous intrusion on free speech”, arguing that it would “conflict with important principles of our democratic society”. Nevertheless, after it passed Truman relied upon it in twelve instances during his presidency.
What Happened to the Unions?
The Taft-Hartley Act was very successful – from the bosses’ point of view. Almost immediately the percentage of US workers in unions began to decline – from over 30% when the Act was passed to only about 10% today. In turn, economic inequality has risen to historic levels as virtually all growth in wealth and income has accrued to the top 1%.
Of course unions faced other challenges over the last 70 years – increasing automation and outsourcing of jobs among them. But much of the decline can be laid squarely at the feet of Taft-Hartley and the anti-union laws on the state level enabled by its passage.
The Road to Repeal
Over the last 70 years, some attempts have been made to repeal Taft-Hartley – or at least some of its more odious features. All these efforts have come to naught, even when the Democrats have had full control of the government. In this Congress the recently introduced Protecting the Right To Organize Act (“PRO Act”) would virtually repeal the Taft-Hartley Act, though there’s no prospect of its receiving a hearing in the Senate.
Passage of the PRO Act will require a relatively “pro-labor” government, as well as pressure from both the grassroots and from labor leaders. We encourage friends of labor across the country to help bring attention to the need for Taft-Hartley repeal, and to ask their Senators and Congresspeople to cosponsor the PRO Act if they haven’t already.
Protecting the Right to Organize Act
Democrats: Which side are you on? 5/21/2019
The Legacy of Taft-Hartley 12/19/2017
Bills – Senate 2017-2018
Bills – House 2017-2018