Labor Dispute, Norris-La Guardia and Taft-Hartley

labor dispute

My Country – Issuing Injunctions Against a Labor Dispute

Union membership is at its lowest levels since the late 1930s. Yet, when the union membership began to rise, Congress had recently acted to stop federal courts from issuing injunctions with every nonviolent labor dispute. On March 23, 1932, the Norris-La Guardia Act was enacted.

History of Injunctions

In the early 1930s, courts had undertaken the power of the injunction to control strikes and a labor dispute. They moved swiftly to aid employers against union agitation. The injunctions were often issued to forbid labor from telling anyone tthat a strike was in progress or from paying benefits to laborers on strike.

One of the major problems was yellow-dog contracts. A yellow-dog contract was an agreement between an employer and the employee that the employee would not become a union member.

The Supreme Court in Hitchman Coal and Coke v. Mitchell held yellow-dog contracts as enforceable.  The Hitchman Coal and Coke Company notified each employee that they could maintain employment if they agreed not to join the United Mine Workers of America. At this point, the northern states had organized but the mines faced competition from the non-union West Virginia mines. Then in 1907, a federal district court issued an injunction prohibiting the union from influencing the Hitchman workers to break their contracts. The Supreme Court endorsed the yellow-dog contract and the use of the injunction.

The Hitchman doctrine helped to create the injunction-fueled employment. But both the Republicans and Democrats wanted to end this practice on a labor dispute.

Norris-La Guardia Act

Our dear friend George W. Norris reappears as the lead reformer in the Senate. The Norris-La Guardia Act made certain acts, such as striking and paying benefits, immune from injunctions. Additionally, yellow dog contracts become unenforceable. In the end, the federal courts were “neutralized in industrial conflicts, no longer being allowed to throw their weight against the effort of labor to organize.”

Wagner Act, Right-to-Work, and Today

In February 1935, Senator Robert Wagner introduced the National Labor Relations Act. The Wagner Bill proposed to create a new independent agency—the National Labor Relations Board, made up of three members appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate-to enforce employee rights rather than to mediate disputes. It gave employees the right to form and join unions and it obligated employers to bargain collectively with unions selected by a majority of the employees. The measure endorsed the principles of exclusive representation and majority rule, provided for enforcement of the Board’s rulings, and covered most workers in industries whose operations affected interstate commerce.

However, twelve years later, the Taft-Hartley Act was passed over the veto of President Truman. The Act’s purpose was to take back many of the union protections put into place by Norris-LaGuardia and Wagner Acts.

Taft-Hartley Act

The Taft-Hartley Act made major changes to the Wagner Act. The Act allowed employees the right to refrain from participating in union aid activities except that they could be required to become members in a union as a condition of employment.

Taft-Hartley defined several additional unfair labor practices.

  • Protected employees from restraint or coercion by unions. Unions could not cause an employer to discriminate against an employee for exercising Section 7 rights. They declared closed shops illegal. But employers could sign a union shop agreement under which employees could be required to join the union.
  • Imposed on unions the same obligation to bargain in good faith that the Wagner Act placed on employers. They prohibited secondary boycotts. Therefore, it became unlawful for a union that has a primary dispute  to pressure a neutral employer to stop doing business with the employer.
  • Unions could not charge excessive dues or initiation fees. Additionally, they could not cause an employer to pay for work not performed. The new law contained a “free speech clause.” The clause proved that the expression of views, arguments, or opinions is not generally evidence of an unfair labor practice.
  • The Act excluded Supervisors from bargaining units. The Board had to give special treatment to professional employees, craftsmen and plant guards in determining bargaining units.
  • Congress also added four new types of elections.
    • Employers faced with a union’s demand for recognition to seek a Board-conducted election.
    • Employees could
      • obtain elections to determine whether to oust incumbent unions
      • grant to unions authority to enter into a union shop agreement,
      • elect to withdraw union shop authorization previously granted.
  • Most importantly for today, the Act allowed states to enact Right-to-Work laws. 28 states have enacted right-to-work laws.

Daily Briefing

  • No one buys dictionaries but the creation of dictionaries fascinate me.
  • Life in America is difficult. Life in rural America is even worse.
  • Instacart needs to redefine its terms. Maybe now, people will tip their deliveries.
  • Trumpcare behind-the-scenes make it look terrible. And it did not get a vote today. At least they want to kill essential health benefits. You know – like physicals and mammograms.
  • We need better mental health compassion. And we need to stop with the racism. Stop trying to divide us all. A man drove from Baltimore to stab African-Americans. He brought a sword.
  • The Secretary of Energy Rick Perry took the time to write about a college student election. Why? Because a son of a Republican fundraiser lost to a gay man. Why? Because the son of the Republican fundraiser did not follow the rules of the election. Could people be upset? Sure. Should the Secretary of Energy? No. You have important things to do.
  • Late yesterday, CNN reported that US officials have information that Trump surrogates coordinated with the Russians in the 2016 elections. I’m shocked because it took this long.
  • Then the RNC also purportedly paid an intel firm for Clinton dirt. And the firm has Russian ties.
  • Excited about the fact that your cable and internet provider can track and share your browsing history without your permission? Republicans are!

Daily Distraction

As we plan to go to Disney World next week, I am trying to figure out which book to take and read. I will most likely bring my iPad mini to read Marvel Unlimited Fantastic Four comics. Additionally, I may bring 1984, which the Slate Culture Gabfest had a book club about, and the crime novel I have been reading forever. More importantly, I want to ensure that I will not spend time on Facebook or Twitter or on work e-mail.

I cannot wait. I even got a summer haircut to look cute in my pictures with Donald Duck and Baloo.

One Sentence Story

He came back years later and I was still working me and he recognized me and I just could not believe it.

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