One of the primary tools long used to suppress labor in the United States is the Taft-Hartley Act, which became law 65 years ago next month. Specifically written to reduce the organizing power of working people to the maximum extent reasonably possible, it is sometimes overlooked that the law was passed with Democratic Party as well as Republican support.
Working people had won for themselves powerful gains during the dramatic upsurge of union organizing during the latter years of the Great Depression, and after agreeing to not conduct strikes during World War II, unions were again flexing their muscles so that their members could make up some of what was lost from the war’s pay freezes.
In response, U.S. Big Business interests saw their first opportunity to begin the dismantling of the New Deal, implemented by Franklin Delano Roosevelt in response to massive unrest that threatened to topple the capitalist system.
The scope of Taft-Hartley was (and remains) sweeping. It prohibited jurisdictional, wildcat, solidarity or political strikes; restricted political contributions by unions; outlawed welfare funds not jointly controlled by management; authorized employer interference in organizing; outlawed the closed shop; authorized states to pass laws outlawing union shops; and ramped up the Red Scare by requiring union officials to sign affidavits that they were not communists.
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