Unions before the Bar: Historic Trials Showing the Evolution of Labor Rights in the United States

By Elias Lieberman | Go to book overview

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With Malice Toward Labor (1947-1948)

THE TAFT-HARTLEY ACT

I

This is the story not of a court case but of a law -- the Taft-Hartley Act -- which was intended to affect profoundly the rights of unions in the United States. Like the first recorded labor case -- the Philadelphia Cordwainers -- this law reflects the clash between the social philosophies of the two dominant political parties of the day. The backdrop for this law is the New Deal.

The elections of 1932, held in the midst of the depression, brought a Democratic administration to Washington after twelve years of Republican rule. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, directing his energies to restoring confidence in the future, warned the country that there was "nothing to fear but fear itself." At that time our industries were almost prostrated from the severe depression that started in 1929. The industrial wheels were turning slowly and irregularly. There was frightening unemployment and the air was filled with uncertainty and fear. The public lost confidence in the captains of industry and in the bankers, the captains of capital.

Roosevelt promised action, and action followed. Several laws were introduced heralding the New Deal, and the Blue Eagle became its symbol. The first law was the National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA), which was designed to get the wheels of industry turning. When the Blue Eagle appeared on the horizon it was welcomed by both labor and capital. The industrialists were encouraged and permitted to set up their own rules of the game in the form of Codes of Fair Competition, and each code had to incorporate Section 7(a)

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