Taft-Hartley Act Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

Although the US economy roared to life after the Great Depression during World War II, the immediate postwar period was marked by short-term economic decline, labor unrest, and a wave of highly publicized strikes. US support for labor interests weakened, and anti-labor politicians sought to formally limit labor power. Passed by the Republican-controlled US Congress over the veto of President Harry S. Truman, the Labor-Management Relations Act, commonly called the Taft-Hartley Act, modified portions of the 1935 National Labor Relations Act in order to limit the power of labor unions. Among the act's most significant provisions were the elimination of the closed shop (a type of labor agreement that required employers to hire only union members) and the placement of new limitations on unions' rights to strike. Called the “slave labor act” by Truman and other opponents, the act succeeded in dampening some of labor's influence, but also gave Truman a political rallying point that helped shape his Fair Deal domestic agenda.

Summary Overview

Although the US economy roared to life after the Great Depression during World War II, the immediate postwar period was marked by short-term economic decline, labor unrest, and a wave of highly publicized strikes. US support for labor interests weakened, and anti-labor politicians sought to formally limit labor power. Passed by the Republican-controlled US Congress over the veto of President Harry S. Truman, the Labor-Management Relations Act, commonly called the Taft-Hartley Act, modified portions of the 1935 National Labor Relations Act in order to limit the power of labor unions. Among the act's most significant provisions were the elimination of the closed shop (a type of labor agreement that required employers to hire only union members) and the placement of new limitations on unions' rights to strike. Called the “slave labor act” by Truman and other opponents, the act succeeded in dampening some of labor's influence, but also gave Truman a political rallying point that helped shape his Fair Deal domestic agenda.

Defining Moment

The organized labor movement began in the United States with the rise of industrialization in the 1800s. Early labor leaders sought to secure the rights for workers to organize and to bargain collectively, often to achieve aims such as fair wages, reduced working hours, or improved workplace safety. Disputes between labor and management occurred frequently, and workers' strikes and demonstrations sometimes turned violent as tensions rose. During an era when the federal government supported a policy of laissez-faire economics, it avoiding passing legislation that helped the labor cause and even intervened to break up strikes. World War I and the strength of the 1920s economy temporarily halted the rise of labor, and union membership dropped during the 1920s.

By the New Deal era, however, the federal government's interest in supporting labor-management relations had grown. As part of its overall program to boost the slumping US economy during the Depression, the administration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt supported the passage of the National Labor Relations Act—commonly known as the Wagner Act—in 1935. This legislation gave federal protection to the rights of workers to organize into unions and established the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) as a final mediator in disputes between management and labor. The passage of the Wagner Act gave labor unions unprecedented power in US workplaces, and the percentage of unionized workers nationwide leapt from about 7 percent in the mid-1930s to over 20 percent by the mid-1940s. Labor also became an important ally of the Democratic Party as part of Roosevelt's New Deal coalition.

During World War II, the federal government restricted labor rights because of wartime needs, implementing wage freezes, limitations on striking, and increased working hours. The production focus on war needs resulted in shortages of consumer goods and price hikes, but overall, increased production and employment helped the nation shake off the doldrums of the Depression. When the war ended, however, the economic boom ended. Industrial production declined, just as millions of soldiers demobilized and returned home. Americans feared this combination would lead to widespread unemployment and economic turmoil.

These worries proved largely unfounded. However, labor leaders sought to reassert their influence to attain concessions such as pay raises that they believed were now overdue to workers. Waves of peaceful but large-scale strikes spread across the nation. At the same time, rising tensions with the Soviet Union generated fears of Communist subversion at home. Anti-labor sentiment grew among the American populace amid popular opposition to the postwar strikes and worry that labor leaders sympathized with Communist or socialist principles. In 1946, voters ended the longtime Democratic control of the US Congress and voted in Republican candidates who campaigned against the big-government and prolabor policies of the past. The stage was set for new legislative action limiting the perceived excesses of labor power.

Author Biography

The Taft-Hartley Act was sponsored by two Republicans, US Senator Robert Taft of Ohio and Representative Fred A. Hartley, Jr. of New Jersey. The son of Progressive-era president William Howard Taft, the younger Taft won election to the US Congress in 1938 and soon established himself as a leading conservative voice widely seen as a contender for the presidency. After Republicans gained control of Congress in the 1946 midterm elections, Taft became chair of the Senate's Labor and Public Welfare Committee and soon moved to introduce a bill amending the Wagner Act. At the same time, Hartley assumed leadership of the House's Education and Labor Committee and took action on his own bill to limit labor influence. He was a congressional veteran, having first won election to the House in 1928, and it was perhaps this political experience that spurred him to draft a bill harsher than Taft's; Hartley later claimed he did so in order to make the resulting compromise bill seem less drastic.

Historical Document

LABOR MANAGEMENT RELATIONS ACT

Also cited LMRA; 29 U.S.C. Sec. Sec. 141-197

[Title 29, Chapter 7, United States Code]

short title and declaration of policy

Section 1. [Sec. 141.] (a) This Act [chapter] may be cited as the “Labor Management Relations Act, 1947.” [Also known as the “Taft-Hartley Act.”]

(b) Industrial strife which interferes with the normal flow of commerce and with the full production of articles and commodities for commerce, can be avoided or substantially minimized if employers, employees, and labor organizations each recognize under law one another's legitimate rights in their relations with each other, and above all recognize under law that neither party has any right in its relations with any other to engage in acts or practices which jeopardize

the public health, safety, or interest.

It is the purpose and policy of this Act [chapter], in order to promote the full flow of commerce, to prescribe the legitimate rights of both employees and employers in their relations affecting commerce, to provide orderly and peaceful procedures for preventing the interference by either with the legitimate rights of the other, to protect the rights of individual employees in their relations with labor organizations whose activities affect commerce, to define and proscribe practices on the part of labor and management which affect commerce and are inimical to the general welfare, and to protect the rights of the public in connection with labor disputes affecting commerce.

TITLE I, Amendments to

NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS ACT

29 U.S.C. Sec. Sec. 151–169 (printed above)

TITLE II

[Title 29, Chapter 7, Subchapter III, United States Code]

Conciliation of Labor Disputes in Industries Affecting Commerce; National Emergencies

Sec. 201. [Sec. 171. Declaration of purpose and policy] It is the policy of the United States that—

(a) sound and stable industrial peace and the advancement of the general welfare, health, and safety of the Nation and of the best interest of employers and employees can most satisfactorily be secured by the settlement of issues between employers and employees through the processes of conference and collective bargaining between employers and the representatives of their employees;

(b) the settlement of issues between employers and employees through collective bargaining may by advanced by making available full and adequate governmental facilities for conciliation, mediation, and voluntary arbitration to aid and encourage employers and the representatives of their employees to reach and maintain agreements concerning rates of pay, hours, and working conditions, and to make all reasonable efforts to settle their differences by mutual agreement reached through conferences and collective bargaining or by such methods as may be provided for in any applicable agreement for the settlement of disputes; and

(c) certain controversies which arise between parties to collective-bargaining agreements may be avoided or minimized by making available full and adequate governmental facilities for furnishing assistance to employers and the representatives of their employees in formulating for inclusion within such agreements provision for adequate notice of any proposed changes in the terms of such agreements, for the final adjustment of grievances or questions regarding the application or interpretation of such agreements, and other provisions designed to prevent the subsequent arising of such controversies.

Sec. 202. [Sec. 172. Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service]

(a) [Creation; appointment of Director] There is created an independent agency to be known as the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (herein referred to as the “Service,” except that for sixty days after June 23, 1947, such term shall refer to the Conciliation Service of the Department of Labor). The Service shall be under the direction of a Federal Mediation and Conciliation Director (hereinafter referred to as the “Director”), who shall be appointed by the President by and with the advice and consent of the Senate. The Director shall not engage in any other business, vocation, or employment.

(b) [Appointment of officers and employees; expenditures for supplies, facilities, and services] The Director is authorized, subject to the civil service laws, to appoint such clerical and other personnel as may be necessary for the execution of the functions of the Service, and shall fix their compensation in accordance with sections 5101 to 5115 and sections 5331 to 5338 of title 5, United States Code [chapter 51 and subchapter III of chapter 53 of title 5], and may, without regard to the provisions of the civil service laws, appoint such conciliators and mediators as may be necessary to carry out the functions of the Service. The Director is authorized to make such expenditures for supplies, facilities, and services as he deems necessary. Such expenditures shall be allowed and paid upon presentation of itemized vouchers therefor approved by the Director or by any employee designated by him for that purpose.

(c) [Principal and regional offices; delegation of authority by Director; annual report to Congress] The principal office of the Service shall be in the District of Columbia, but the Director may establish regional offices convenient to localities in which labor controversies are likely to arise. The Director may by order, subject to revocation at any time, delegate any authority and discretion conferred upon him by this Act [chapter] to any regional director, or other officer or employee of the Service. The Director may establish suitable procedures for cooperation with State and local mediation agencies. The Director shall make an annual report in writing to Congress at the end of the fiscal year.

(d) [Transfer of all mediation and conciliation services to Service; effective date; pending proceedings unaffected] All mediation and conciliation functions of the Secretary of Labor or the United States Conciliation Service under section 51 [repealed] of title 29, United States Code [this title], and all functions of the United States Conciliation Service under any other law are transferred to the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, together with the personnel and records of the United States Conciliation Service. Such transfer shall take effect upon the sixtieth day after June 23, 1947. Such transfer shall not affect any proceedings pending before the United States Conciliation Service or any certification, order, rule, or regulation theretofore made by it or by the Secretary of Labor. The Director and the Service shall not be subject in any way to the jurisdiction or authority of the Secretary of Labor or any official or division of the Department of Labor.

Functions of the Service

Sec. 203. [Sec. 173. Functions of Service] (a) [Settlement of disputes through conciliation and mediation] It shall be the duty of the Service, in order to prevent or minimize interruptions of the free flow of commerce growing out of labor disputes, to assist parties to labor disputes in industries affecting commerce to settle such disputes through conciliation and mediation.

(b) [Intervention on motion of Service or request of parties; avoidance of mediation of minor disputes] The Service may proffer its services in any labor dispute in any industry affecting commerce, either upon its own motion or upon the request of one or more of the parties to the dispute, whenever in its judgment such dispute threatens to cause a substantial interruption of commerce. The Director and the Service are directed to avoid attempting to mediate disputes which would have only a minor effect on interstate commerce if State or other conciliation services are available to the parties. Whenever the Service does proffer its services in any dispute, it shall be the duty of the Service promptly to put itself in communication with the parties and to use its best efforts, by mediation and conciliation, to bring them to agreement.

(c) [Settlement of disputes by other means upon failure of conciliation] If the Director is not able to bring the parties to agreement by conciliation within a reasonable time, he shall seek to induce the parties voluntarily to seek other means of settling the dispute without resort to strike, lockout, or other coercion, including submission to the employees in the bargaining unit of the employer's last offer of settlement for approval or rejection in a secret ballot. The failure or refusal of either party to agree to any procedure suggested by the Director shall not be deemed a violation of any duty or obligation imposed by this Act [chapter].

(d) [Use of conciliation and mediation services as last resort] Final adjustment by a method agreed upon by the parties is declared to be the desirable method for settlement of grievance disputes arising over the application or interpretation of an existing collective-bargaining agreement. The Service is directed to make its conciliation and mediation services available in the settlement of such grievance disputes only as a last resort and in exceptional cases.

(e) [Encouragement and support of establishment and operation of joint labor management activities conducted by committees] The Service is authorized and directed to encourage and support the establishment and operation of joint labor management activities conducted by plant, area, and industrywide committees designed to improve labor management relationships, job security and organizational effectiveness, in accordance with the provisions of section 205A [section 175a of this title].

[Pub. L. 95–524, Sec. 6(c)(1), Oct. 27, 1978, 92 Stat. 2020, added subsec. (e).]

(f) [Use of alternative means of dispute resolution procedures; assignment of neutrals and arbitrators] The Service may make its services available to Federal agencies to aid in the resolution of disputes under the provisions of subchapter IV of chapter 5 of title 5. Functions performed by the Service may include assisting parties to disputes related to administrative programs, training persons in skills and procedures employed in alternative means of dispute resolution, and furnishing officers and employees of the Service to act as neutrals. Only officers and employees who are qualified in accordance with section 573 of title 5 may be assigned to act as neutrals. The Service shall consult with the Administrative Conference of the United States and other agencies in maintaining rosters of neutrals and arbitrators, and to adopt such procedures and rules as are necessary to carry out the services authorized in this subsection.

[As amended Nov. 15, 1990, Pub. L. 101–552, Sec. 7, 104 Stat. 2746; Aug. 26, 1992, Pub. L. 102–354, Sec. 5(b)(5), 106 Stat. 946.]

[It appears that Sec. 173(f) terminated on October 1, 1995, pursuant to a sunset provision. As of the date of this publication, it does not appear that it was reenacted. Persons having an interest in the application of Sec. 173(f) to proceedings commencing after October 1, 1995, should check to see whether the provision was renewed.]

Sec. 204. [Sec. 174. Co-equal obligations of employees, their representatives, and management to minimize labor disputes] (a) In order to prevent or minimize interruptions of the free flow of commerce growing out of labor disputes, employers and employees and their representatives, in any industry affecting commerce, shall—

(1) exert every reasonable effort to make and maintain agreements concerning rates of pay, hours, and working conditions, including provision for adequate notice of any proposed change in the terms of such agreements;

(2) whenever a dispute arises over the terms or application of a collective-bargaining agreement and a conference is requested by a party or prospective party thereto, arrange promptly for such a conference to be held and endeavor in such conference to settle such dispute expeditiously; and

(3) in case such dispute is not settled by conference, participate fully and promptly in such meetings as may be undertaken by the Service under this Act [chapter] for the purpose of aiding in a settlement of the dispute.

Sec. 205. [Sec. 175. National Labor-Management Panel; creation and composition; appointment, tenure, and compensation; duties] (a) There is created a National Labor-Management Panel which shall be composed of twelve members appointed by the President, six of whom shall be elected from among persons outstanding in the field of management and six of whom shall be selected from among persons outstanding in the field of labor. Each member shall hold office for a term of three years, except that any member appointed to fill a vacancy occurring prior to the expiration of the term for which his predecessor was appointed shall be appointed for the remainder of such term, and the terms of office of the members first taking office shall expire, as designated by the President at the time of appointment, four at the end of the first year, four at the end of the second year, and four at the end of the third year after the date of appointment. Members of the panel, when serving on business of the panel, shall be paid compensation at the rate of $25 per day, and shall also be entitled to receive an allowance for actual and necessary travel and subsistence expenses while so serving away from their places of residence.

(b) It shall be the duty of the panel, at the request of the Director, to advise in the avoidance of industrial controversies and the manner in which mediation and voluntary adjustment shall be administered, particularly with reference to controversies affecting the general welfare of the country.

Sec. 205A. [Sec. 175a. Assistance to plant, area, and industrywide labor management committees]

(a) [Establishment and operation of plant, area, and industrywide committees] (1) The Service is authorized and directed to provide assistance in the establishment and operation of plant, area and industrywide labor management committees which—

(A) have been organized jointly by employers and labor organizations representing employees in that plant, area, or industry; and

(B) are established for the purpose of improving labor management relationships, job security, organizational effectiveness, enhancing economic development or involving workers in decisions affecting their jobs including improving communication with respect to subjects of mutual interest and concern.

(2) The Service is authorized and directed to enter into contracts and to make grants, where necessary or appropriate, to fulfill its responsibilities under this section.

(b) [Restrictions on grants, contracts, or other assistance] (1) No grant may be made, no contract may be entered into and no other assistance may be provided under the provisions of this section to a plant labor management committee unless the employees in that plant are represented by a labor organization and there is in effect at that plant a collective bargaining agreement.

(2) No grant may be made, no contract may be entered into and no other assistance may be provided under the provisions of this section to an area or industrywide labor management committee unless its participants include any labor organizations certified or recognized as the representative of the employees of an employer participating in such committee. Nothing in this clause shall prohibit participation in an area or industrywide committee by an employer whose employees are not represented by a labor organization.

(3) No grant may be made under the provisions of this section to any labor management committee which the Service finds to have as one of its purposes the discouragement of the exercise of rights contained in section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act (29 U.S.C. Sec. 157) [section 157 of this title], or the interference with collective bargaining in any plant, or industry.

(c) [Establishment of office] The Service shall carry out the provisions of this section through an office established for that purpose.

(d) [Authorization of appropriations] There are authorized to be appropriated to carry out the provisions of this section $10,000,000 for the fiscal year 1979, and such sums as may be necessary thereafter.

[Pub. L. 9–524, Sec. 6(c)(2), Oct. 27, 1978, 92 Stat. 2020, added Sec. 205A.]

National Emergencies

Sec. 206. [Sec. 176. Appointment of board of inquiry by President; report; contents; filing with Service] Whenever in the opinion of the President of the United States, a threatened or actual strike or lockout affecting an entire industry or a substantial part thereof engaged in trade, commerce, transportation, transmission, or communication among the several States or with foreign nations, or engaged in the production of goods for commerce, will, if permitted to occur or to continue, imperil

the national health or safety, he may appoint a board of inquiry to inquire into the issues involved in the dispute and to make a written report to him within such time as he shall prescribe. Such report shall include a statement of the facts with respect to the dispute, including each party's statement of its position but shall not contain any recommendations. The President shall file a copy of such report with the Service and shall make its contents available to the public.

Sec. 207. [Sec. 177. Board of inquiry]

(a) [Composition] A board of inquiry shall be composed of a chairman and such other members as the President shall determine, and shall have power to sit and act in any place within the United States and to conduct such hearings either in public or in private, as it may deem necessary or proper, to ascertain the facts with respect to the causes and circumstances of the dispute.

(b) [Compensation] Members of a board of inquiry shall receive compensation at the rate of $50 for each day actually spent by them in the work of the board, together with necessary travel and subsistence expenses.

(c) [Powers of discovery] For the purpose of any hearing or inquiry conducted by any board appointed under this title [29 U.S.C.S. Sec. Sec. 171–183], the provisions of sections 9 and 10 (relating to the attendance of witnesses and the production of books, papers, and documents) of the Federal Trade Commission Act of September 16 [26], 1914, as amended (U.S.C. [19], title 15, secs. 49 and 50, as amended), are hereby made applicable to the powers and duties of such board. (June 23, 1947, ch 120 Title II, Sec. 61 Stat. 155.)

Sec. 208. [Sec. 178. Injunctions during national emergency]

(a) [Petition to district court by Attorney General on direction of President] Upon receiving a report from a board of inquiry the President may direct the Attorney General to petition any district court of the United States having jurisdiction of the parties to enjoin such strike or lockout or the continuing thereof, and if the court finds that such threatened or actual strike or lockout—

(i) affects an entire industry or a substantial part thereof engaged in trade, commerce, transportation, transmission, or communication among the several States or with foreign nations, or engaged in the production of goods for commerce; and

(ii) if permitted to occur or to continue, will imperil the national health or safety, it shall have jurisdiction to enjoin any such strike or lockout, or the continuing thereof, and to make such other orders

as may be appropriate.

(b) [Inapplicability of chapter 6] In any case, the provisions of sections 101 to 115 of title 29, United States Code [chapter 6 of this title] [known as the “Norris-LaGuardia Act”] shall not be applicable.

(c) [Review of orders] The order or orders of the court shall be subject to review by the appropriate circuit court of appeals [court of appeals] and by the Supreme Court upon writ of certiorari or certification as provided in sections 239 and 240 of the Judicial Code, as amended (U.S.C., title 29, secs. 346 and 347). (June 23, 1947, ch 120, Title II Sec. 208, 61 Stat. 155.)

Sec. 209. [Sec. 179. Injunctions during national emergency; adjustment efforts by parties during injunction period]

(a) [Assistance of Service; acceptance of Service's proposed settlement] Whenever a district court has issued an order under section 208 [section 178 of this title] enjoining acts or practices which imperil or threaten to imperil the national health or safety, it shall be the duty of the parties to the labor dispute giving rise to such order to make every effort to adjust and settle their differences, with the assistance of the Service created by this Act [chapter]. Neither party shall be under any duty to accept, in whole or in part, any proposal of settlement made by the Service.

(b) [Reconvening of board of inquiry; report by board; contents; secret ballot of employees by National Labor Relations Board; certification of results to Attorney General] Upon the issuance of such order, the President shall reconvene the board of inquiry which has previously reported with respect to the dispute. At the end of a sixty-day period (unless the dispute has been settled by that time), the board of inquiry shall report to the President the current position of the parties and the efforts which have been made for settlement, and shall include a statement by each party of its position and a statement of the employer's last offer of settlement. The President shall make such report available to the public. The National Labor Relations Board, within the succeeding fifteen days, shall take a secret ballot of the employees of each employer involved in the dispute on the question of whether they wish to accept the final offer of settlement made by their employer, as stated by him, and shall certify the results thereof to the Attorney General within five days thereafter.

Sec. 210. [Sec. 180. Discharge of injunction upon certification of results of election or settlement; report to Congress] Upon the certification of the results of such ballot or upon a settlement being reached, whichever happens sooner, the Attorney General shall move the court to discharge the injunction, which motion shall then be granted, and the injunction discharged. When such motion is granted, the President shall submit to the Congress a full and comprehensive report of the proceedings, including the findings of the board of inquiry and the ballot taken by the National Labor Relations Board, together with such recommendations as he may see fit to make for consideration and appropriate action.

Compilation of Collective-Bargaining Agreements, etc.

Sec. 211. [Sec. 181.] (a) For the guidance and information of interested representatives of employers, employees, and the general public, the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the Department of Labor shall maintain a file of copies of all available collective-bargaining agreements and other available agreements and actions thereunder settling or adjusting labor disputes. Such file shall be open to inspection under appropriate conditions prescribed by the Secretary of Labor, except that no specific information submitted in confidence shall be disclosed.

(b) The Bureau of Labor Statistics in the Department of Labor is authorized to furnish upon request of the Service, or employers, employees, or their representatives, all available data and factual information which may aid in the settlement of any labor dispute, except that no specific information submitted in confidence shall be disclosed.

Exemption of Railway Labor Act

Sec. 212. [Sec. 182.] The provisions of this title [subchapter] shall not be applicable with respect to any matter which is subject to the provisions of the Railway Labor Act [45 U.S.C. Sec. 151 et seq.], as amended from time to time.

Conciliation of Labor Disputes in the Health Care Industry

Sec. 213. [Sec. 183.] (a) [Establishment of Boards of Inquiry; membership] If, in the opinion of the Director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, a threatened or actual strike or lockout affecting a health care institution will, if permitted to occur or to continue, substantially interrupt the delivery of health care in the locality concerned, the Director may further assist in the resolution of the impasse by establishing within thirty days after the notice to the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service under clause (A) of the last sentence of section 8(d) [section 158(d) of this title] (which is required by clause (3) of such section 8(d) [section 158(d) of this title]), or within ten days after the notice under clause (B), an impartial Board of Inquiry to investigate the issues involved in the dispute and to make a written report thereon to the parties within fifteen (15) days after the establishment of such a Board. The written report shall contain the findings of fact together with the Board's recommendations for settling the dispute, with the objective of achieving a prompt, peaceful and just settlement of the dispute. Each such Board shall be composed of such number of individuals as the Director may deem desirable. No member appointed under this section shall have any interest or involvement in the health care institutions or the employee organizations involved in the dispute.

(b) [Compensation of members of Boards of Inquiry] (1) Members of any board established under this section who are otherwise employed by the Federal Government shall serve without compensation but shall be reimbursed for travel, subsistence, and other necessary expenses incurred by them in carrying out its duties under this section.

(2) Members of any board established under this section who are not subject to paragraph (1) shall receive compensation at a rate prescribed by the Director but not to exceed the daily rate prescribed for GS-18 of the General Schedule under section 5332 of title 5, United States Code [section 5332 of title 5], including travel for each day they are engaged in the performance of their duties under this section and shall be entitled to reimbursement for travel, subsistence, and other necessary expenses incurred by them in carrying out their duties under this section.

(c) [Maintenance of status quo] After the establishment of a board under subsection (a) of this section and for fifteen days after any such board has issued its report, no change in the status quo in effect prior to the expiration of the contract in the case of negotiations for a contract renewal, or in effect prior to the time of the impasse in the case of an initial bargaining negotiation, except by agreement, shall be made by the parties to the controversy.

(d) [Authorization of appropriations] There are authorized to be appropriated such sums as may be necessary to carry out the provisions of this section.

TITLE III

[Title 29, Chapter 7, Subchapter IV, United States Code]

Suits by and against Labor Organizations

Sec. 301. [Sec. 185.] (a) [Venue, amount, and citizenship] Suits for violation of contracts between an employer and a labor organization representing employees in an industry affecting commerce as defined in this Act [chapter], or between any such labor organization, may be brought in any district court of the United States having jurisdiction of the parties, without respect to the amount in controversy or without regard to the citizenship of the parties.

(b) [Responsibility for acts of agent; entity for purposes of suit; enforcement of money judgments] Any labor organization which represents employees in an industry affecting commerce as defined in this Act [chapter] and any employer whose activities affect commerce as defined in this Act [chapter] shall be bound by the acts of its agents. Any such labor organization may sue or be sued as an entity and in behalf of the employees whom it represents in the courts of the United States. Any money judgment against a labor organization in a district court of the United States shall be enforceable only against the organization as an entity and against its assets, and shall not be enforceable against any individual member or his assets.

(c) [Jurisdiction] For the purposes of actions and proceedings by or against labor organizations in the district courts of the United States, district courts shall be deemed to have jurisdiction of a labor organization (1) in the district in which such organization maintains its principal offices, or (2) in any district in which its duly authorized officers or agents are engaged in representing or acting for employee members.

(d) [Service of process] The service of summons, subpoena, or other legal process of any court of the United States upon an officer or agent of a labor organization, in his capacity as such, shall constitute service upon the labor organization.

(e) [Determination of question of agency] For the purposes of this section, in determining whether any person is acting as an “agent” of another person so as to make such other person responsible for his acts, the question of whether the specific acts performed were actually authorized or subsequently ratified shall not be controlling.

Restrictions on Payments to Employee Representatives

Sec. 302. [Sec. 186.] (a) [Payment or lending, etc., of money by employer or agent to employees, representatives, or labor organizations] It shall be unlawful for any employer or association of employers or any person who acts as a labor relations expert, adviser, or consultant to an employer or who acts in the interest of an employer to pay, lend, or deliver, or agree to pay, lend, or deliver, any money or other thing of value—

(1) to any representative of any of his employees who are employed in an industry affecting commerce; or

(2) to any labor organization, or any officer or employee thereof, which represents, seeks to represent, or would admit to membership, any of the employees of such employer who are employed in an industry affecting commerce;

(3) to any employee or group or committee of employees of such employer employed in an industry affecting commerce in excess of their normal compensation for the purpose of causing such employee or group or committee directly or indirectly to influence any other employees in the exercise of the right to organize and bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing; or

(4) to any officer or employee of a labor organization engaged in an industry affecting commerce with intent to influence him in respect to any of his actions, decisions, or duties as a representative of employees or as such officer or employee of such labor organization.

(b) [Request, demand, etc., for money or other thing of value]

(1) It shall be unlawful for any person to request, demand, receive, or accept, or agree to receive or accept, any payment, loan, or delivery of any money or other thing of value prohibited by subsection (a) of this section.

(2) It shall be unlawful for any labor organization, or for any person acting as an officer, agent, representative, or employee of such labor organization, to demand or accept from the operator of any motor vehicle (as defined in section 13102 of title 49) employed in the transportation of property in commerce, or the employer of any such operator, any money or other thing of value payable to such organization or to an officer, agent, representative or employee thereof as a fee or charge for the unloading, or in connection with the unloading, of the cargo of such vehicle: Provided, That nothing in this paragraph shall be construed to make unlawful any payment by an employer to any of his employees as compensation for their services as employees.

(c) [Exceptions] The provisions of this section shall not be applicable (1) in respect to any money or other thing of value payable by an employer to any of his employees whose established duties include acting openly for such employer in matters of labor relations or personnel administration or to any representative of his employees, or to any officer or employee of a labor organization, who is also an employee or former employee of such employer, as compensation for, or by reason of, his service as an employee of such employer; (2) with respect to the payment or delivery of any money or other thing of value in satisfaction of a judgment of any court or a decision or award of an arbitrator or impartial chairman or in compromise, adjustment, settlement, or release of any claim, complaint, grievance, or dispute in the absence of fraud or duress; (3) with respect to the sale or purchase of an article or commodity at the prevailing market price in the regular course of business; (4) with respect to money deducted from the wages of employees in payment of membership dues in a labor organization: Provided, That the employer has received from each employee, on whose account such deductions are made, a written assignment which shall not be irrevocable for a period of more than one year, or beyond the termination date of the applicable collective agreement, whichever occurs sooner; (5) with respect to money or other thing of value paid to a trust fund established by such representative, for the sole and exclusive benefit of the employees of such employer, and their families and dependents (or of such employees, families, and dependents jointly with the employees of other employers making similar payments, and their families and dependents): Provided, That (A) such payments are held in trust for the purpose of paying, either from principal or income or both, for the benefit of employees, their families and dependents, for medical or hospital care, pensions on retirement or death of employees, compensation for injuries or illness resulting from occupational activity or insurance to provide any of the foregoing, or unemployment benefits or life insurance, disability and sickness insurance, or accident insurance; (B) the detailed basis on which such payments are to be made is specified in a written agreement with the employer, and employees and employers are equally represented in the administration of such fund, together with such neutral persons as the representatives of the employers and the representatives of employees may agree upon and in the event the employer and employee groups deadlock on the administration of such fund and there are no neutral persons empowered to break such deadlock, such agreement provides that the two groups shall agree on an impartial umpire to decide such dispute, or in event of their failure to agree within a reasonable length of time, an impartial umpire to decide such dispute shall, on petition of either group, be appointed by the district court of the United States for the district where the trust fund has its principal office, and shall also contain provisions for an annual audit of the trust fund, a statement of the results of which shall be available for inspection by interested persons at the principal office of the trust fund and at such other places as may be designated in such written agreement; and (C) such payments as are intended to be used for the purpose of providing pensions or annuities for employees are made to a separate trust which provides that the funds held therein cannot be used for any purpose other than paying such pensions or annuities; (6) with respect to money or other thing of value paid by any employer to a trust fund established by such representative for the purpose of pooled vacation, holiday, severance or similar benefits, or defraying costs of apprenticeship or other training programs: Provided, That the requirements of clause (B) of the proviso to clause (5) of this subsection shall apply to such trust funds; (7) with respect to money or other thing of value paid by any employer to a pooled or individual trust fund established by such representative for the purpose of (A) scholarships for the benefit of employees, their families, and dependents for study at educational institutions, (B) child care centers for preschool and school age dependents of employees, or (C) financial assistance for employee housing: Provided, That no labor organization or employer shall be required to bargain on the establishment of any such trust fund, and refusal to do so shall not constitute an unfair labor practice: Provided further, That the requirements of clause (B) of the proviso to clause (5) of this subsection shall apply to such trust funds; (8) with respect to money or any other thing of value paid by any employer to a trust fund established by such representative for the purpose of defraying the costs of legal services for employees, their families, and dependents for counsel or plan of their choice: Provided, That the requirements of clause (B) of the proviso to clause (5) of this subsection shall apply to such trust funds: Provided further, That no such legal services shall be furnished: (A) to initiate any proceeding directed (i) against any such employer or its officers or agents except in workman's compensation cases, or (ii) against such labor organization, or its parent or subordinate bodies, or their officers or agents, or (iii) against any other employer or labor organization, or their officers or agents, in any matter arising under subchapter II of this chapter or this chapter; and (B) in any proceeding where a labor organization would be prohibited from defraying the costs of legal services by the provisions of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959 [29 U.S.C.A. Sec. 401 et seq.]; or (9) with respect to money or other things of value paid by an employer to a plant, area or industrywide labor management committee established for one or more of the purposes set forth in section 5(b) of the Labor Management Cooperation Act of 1978.

[Sec. 302(c)(7) was added by Pub. L. 91-86, Oct. 14, 1969, 83 Stat. 133; Sec. 302(c)(8) by Pub. L. 93-95, Aug. 15, 1973, 87 Stat. 314; Sec. 302(c)(9) by Pub. L. 95–524, Oct. 27, 1978, 92 Stat. 2021; and Sec. 302(c)(7) was amended by Pub. L. 101–273, Apr. 18, 1990, 104 Stat. 138.]

(d) [Penalty for violations]

(1) Any person who participates in a transaction involving a payment, loan, or delivery of money or other thing of value to a labor organization in payment of membership dues or to a joint labor- management trust fund as defined by clause (B) of the proviso to clause (5) of subsection (c) of this section or to a plant, area, or industrywide labor-management committee that is received and used by such labor organization, trust fund, or committee, which transaction does not satisfy all the applicable requirements of subsections (c)(4) through (c)(9) of this section, and willfully and with intent to benefit himself or to benefit other persons he knows are not permitted to receive a payment, loan, money, or other thing of value under subsections (c)(4) through (c)(9) violates this subsection, shall, upon conviction thereof, be guilty of a felony and be subject to a fine of not more than $15,000, or imprisoned for not more than five years, or both; but if the value of the amount of money or thing of value involved in any violation of the provisions of this section does not exceed $1,000, such person shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and be subject to a fine of not more than $10,000, or imprisoned for not more than one year, or both.

(2) Except for violations involving transactions covered by subsection

(d)(1) of this section, any person who willfully violates this section shall, upon conviction thereof, be guilty of a felony and be subject to a fine of not more than $15,000, or imprisoned for not more than five years, or both; but if the value of the amount of money or thing of value involved in any violation of the provisions of this section does not exceed $1,000, such person shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and be subject to a fine of not more than $10,000, or imprisoned for not more than one year, or both.

[As amended Oct. 27, 1978, Pub. L. 95-524, Sec. 6(d), 92 Stat. 2021; Oct. 12, 1984, Pub. L. 98–473, Title II, Sec. 801, 98 Stat. 2131; Apr. 18, 1990, Pub. L. 101–273, Sec. 1, 104 Stat. 138.]

(e) [Jurisdiction of courts] The district courts of the United States and the United States courts of the Territories and possessions shall have jurisdiction, for cause shown, and subject to the provisions of rule 65 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure [section 381 (repealed) of title 28] (relating to notice to opposite party) to restrain violations of this section, without regard to the provisions of section 7 of title 15 and section 52 of title 29, United States Code [of this title] [known as the “Clayton Act”], and the provisions of sections 101 to 115 of title 29, United States Code [chapter 6 of this title] [known as the “Norris-LaGuardia Act”].

(f) [Effective date of provisions] This section shall not apply to any contract in force on June 23, 1947, until the expiration of such contract, or until July 1, 1948, whichever first occurs.

(g) [Contributions to trust funds] Compliance with the restrictions contained in subsection (c)(5)(B) [of this section] upon contributions to trust funds, otherwise lawful, shall not be applicable to contributions to such trust funds established by collective agreement prior to January 1, 1946, nor shall subsection (c)(5)(A) [of this section] be construed as prohibiting contributions to such trust funds if prior to January 1, 1947, such funds contained provisions for pooled vacation benefits.

Boycotts and other Unlawful Combinations

Sec. 303. [Sec. 187.] (a) It shall be unlawful, for the purpose of this section only, in an industry or activity affecting commerce, for any labor organization to engage in any activity or conduct defined as an unfair labor practice in section 8(b)(4) of the National Labor Relations Act [section 158(b)(4) of this title].

(b) Whoever shall be injured in his business or property by reason of any violation of subsection (a) [of this section] may sue therefor in any district court of the United States subject to the limitation and provisions of section 301 hereof [section 185 of this title] without respect to the amount in controversy, or in any other court having jurisdiction of the parties, and shall recover the damages by him sustained and the cost of the suit.

Restriction on Political Contributions

Sec. 304. Repealed.

[See sec. 316 of the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1972, 2 U.S.C. Sec. 441b.]

Sec. 305. [Sec. 188.] Strikes by Government employees. Repealed.

[See 5 U.S.C. Sec. 7311 and 18 U.S.C. Sec. 1918.]

TITLE IV

[Title 29, Chapter 7, Subchapter V, United States Code]

Creation of Joint Committee to Study and Report on Basic Problems Affecting Friendly Labor Relations and Productivity

Secs. 401–407. [Sec. Sec. 191–197.] Omitted.

TITLE V

[Title 29, Chapter 7, Subchapter I, United States Code]

Definitions

Sec. 501. [Sec. 142.] When used in this Act [chapter]—

(1) The term “industry affecting commerce” means any industry or activity in commerce or in which a labor dispute would burden or obstruct commerce or tend to burden or obstruct commerce or the free flow of commerce.

(2) The term “strike” includes any strike or other concerted stoppage of work by employees (including a stoppage by reason of the expiration of a collective-bargaining agreement) and any concerted slowdown or other concerted interruption of operations by employees.

(3) The terms “commerce,” “labor disputes,” “employer,” “employee,” “labor organization,” “representative,” “person,” and “supervisor” shall have the same meaning as when used in the National Labor Relations Act as amended by this Act [in subchapter II of this chapter].

Saving Provision

Sec. 502. [Sec. 143.] [Abnormally dangerous conditions] Nothing in this Act [chapter] shall be construed to require an individual employee to render labor or service without his consent, nor shall anything in this Act [chapter] be construed to make the quitting of his labor by an individual employee an illegal act; nor shall any court issue any process to compel the performance by an individual employee of such labor or service, without his consent; nor shall the quitting of labor by an employee or employees in good faith because of abnormally dangerous conditions for work at the place of employment of such employee or employees be deemed a strike under this Act [chapter].

Separability

Sec. 503. [Sec. 144.] If any provision of this Act [chapter], or the application of such provision to any person or circumstance, shall be held invalid, the remainder of this Act [chapter], or the application of such provision to persons or circumstances other than those as to which it is held invalid, shall not be affected thereby.

Glossary

expeditiously: characterized by promptness; quick

inimical: adverse in tendency or effect; harmful

proviso: a clause in a statute, contract, or something similar, by which a condition is introduced; a stipulation or condition

Document Analysis

Intended “to prescribe the legitimate rights of both employees and employers,” the Taft-Hartley Act modified and responded to practices established by the Wagner Act, which had greatly expanded the rights of labor. The Taft-Hartley Act also placed new limitations on unions and their leaders. The law protected the role of the federal government as a key mediator in labor relations, but asserted the rights of both the federal and state governments to check the power of unions. The legislation contained several significant provisions to meet these aims. Without exception, these provisions served the interests of management at the expense of those of labor.

On the government side, the act reconfigured the National Labor Relations Board into two separate bodies (the board itself and the General Counsel), allowed states to enact “right-to-work” laws, and gave the federal government the right to issue temporary injunctions against strikes in industries in which stoppages were deemed likely to “imperil the national health or safety.” Of these, the most damaging to labor was the allowance of right-to-work laws, which prohibit labor-management agreements that require union membership or the payment of union dues; this weakens the influence of unions where they exist, as workers more favorable to management may be brought in. Possible union influence in elections was limited by a ban on direct contributions to certain types of campaigns; this stricture was later amended.

Much of the remainder of the law details how unions may or may not operate in the workplace. Under the Taft-Hartley Act, new employees of union shops must be given thirty days in which to decide whether to become dues-paying members of the union, and nonunionized employees must be given a voice in workplace operations even if the union oversees these. Furthermore, employers were no longer necessarily required to collect union dues on behalf of the shop's organization. Other provisions dampened the ability of labor to protest workplace conditions. For example, unions were required to provide management with considerable notice of their intention of strike, which weakened the power of this action by allowing employers ample time to plan ways to mitigate the effects of a work stoppage. Certain types of strikes particularly damaging to management, such as sit-down strikes in which workers refuse to leave their work areas and so prevent the continuation of work by temporary “scab” employees, were barred altogether as being unfair labor practices. Such limitations were designed to counterweight the listing of unfair management practices that had been included in the prolabor Wagner Act.

Essential Themes

Despite a general climate opposing labor at the time of its passage, the Taft-Hartley law was controversial. Although not a traditional ally of labor, President Truman firmly denounced the law as counter to the interests of all workers and vetoed it. However, Republicans in Congress were able to drum up enough Democratic support, mostly from conservative Southern politicians, to override Truman's veto and move the bill into law. The Democratic president's unsuccessful stand against the Republican Congress presaged an ongoing battle of political wills between the two branches, and Truman vetoed numerous measures sent to him over the next few years.

Much of the Taft-Hartley Act, however, has remained in force into the twenty-first century. Labor leaders have consistently opposed the act since its passage and, at times, have advocated, albeit unsuccessfully, for its repeal. Truman's veto of the act helped cement the political alliance of the Democratic Party and labor interests, but even in times of large Democratic majorities, insufficient political will has existed to substantially weaken or withdraw the act's main provisions. About half of the states have enacted right-to-work laws over time, and the issue remains one still considered by state legislatures; Republican-controlled legislatures in five states began plans to introduce right-to-work laws after a series of sweeping victories in 2014. A handful of changes have nevertheless expanded labor rights limited in the act. Federal legislation allowed labor unions to contribute to political action committees (PACs) that in turn could engage in specific kinds of campaign advertising, for example. The US Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2010) later wiped out all limits placed on campaign contributions by labor unions and other groups (such as large corporations) under the principle of free speech.

In spite of the regulations that Taft-Hartley placed on labor, union membership continued to grow for some time after its passage, approaching 30 percent in the 1950s. As late as the early 1980s, some 20 percent of all workers were unionized. However, the shifting basis of the US economy away from industry, the traditional center of the labor movement, along with other factors, led to an overall decline in union membership from that time onward, particularly in the private sector. In 2014, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that union membership in the United States stood at around 11 percent.

Bibliography and Additional Reading
  • Arnesan, Eric, ed. “Taft-Hartley Act.” Encyclopedia of US Labor and Working-Class History. London: Routledge, 2007. Print.
  • “1947 Taft-Hartley Substantive Provisions.” National Labor Relations Board. NLRB, n.d. Web. 3 Feb. 2015.
  • Weir, Robert E. “Taft-Hartley Act.” Workers in America: A Historical Encyclopedia. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, 2013. Print.
Categories: History Content