State vs. Federal Authority in Labor Law
State' Rights Amendments to Taft-Hartley Act
Federal authority in the field of labor-management relations, grown dominant during the past 20 years, will be materially restricted if House and Senate come to agreement on bills now pending to revise the Taft-Hartley Act. The trend toward federal domination was given powerful impetus by the Wagner Act of 1935 and was accentuated by the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947. It would be reversed, under current proposals, in one or both of two ways: (1) by limiting the jurisdiction of the National Labor Relations Board and (2) by specifically affirming the authority of the states to act in a much wider area of labor relations than at present.
A bill reported by the Senate Labor Committee on Apr. 15, and scheduled for early debate, would authorize N.L.R.B. to decline to take jurisdiction in labor relations cases which in its opinion would have little effect on interstate commerce. The bill would affirm the right of state agencies to assert jurisdiction in such cases. In addition, it would make it clear that nothing in the Taft-Hartley Act should be construed to deprive the states of authority to take action, under their own laws, in labor emergencies constituting “a clear and present danger to the health or safety” of their citizens.
An even stronger “states' rights” bill is expected from the House Labor Committee, which already has given tentative approval to outright abolition of N.L.R.B. and transfer of cases of federal labor law violation to the courts. There is strong sentiment in the House committee for leaving to the states the handling of all labor disputes except those seriously affecting the national interest.