Labor Unions, the Public and the Law

January 1, 1947

Report Outline
Organized Labor and the Public Interest
Trade Unions and Industry-Wide Bargaining
Position of Unions Under Anti-Trust Laws

Organized Labor and the Public Interest

Problems raised by recent actions of organized labor confront all three branches of the federal government as the New Year opens. President Truman will give a prominent place, in his annual message on the State of the Union, to recommendations of the Executive Branch for new legislation to promote industrial peace and protect the public against labor stoppages likely to paralyze the nation's economy. Action to be taken on those recommendations, and on other proposals to restrict or regulate labor unions and labor-union activity, will be a leading issue before the 80th Congress during the coming weeks. Meanwhile, on January 14, the Supreme Court will hear arguments on the appeal of John L. Lewis and the United Mine Workers from their contempt conviction for failure to obey the restraining order issued by a lower court six weeks ago in an unsuccessful attempt to prevent a walkout by 400,000 soft-coal miners.

Reaction to Strikes in Basic Industries

When striking trainmen and engineers brought railroad transportation throughout the country to a halt last May, the public had a convincing demonstration of the ability of strategically-placed labor unions, not only to stop the operations of a whole industry, but to upset any number of other economic activities and threaten widespread personal suffering. At that time President Truman proposed drastic emergency remedies, and an aroused House voted overwhelmingly to give the Chief Executive temporary authority even to draft into the armed services strikers in industries taken over by the government. However, after the railroad strike had been called off and after a bituminous coal strike then in progress for two months had been settled, Congress let the administration's emergency measure drop and the President himself vetoed a permanent strike-control bill sent to the White House on the heels of the two strikes.

Renewal of the coal strike, on the verge of winter and as a strike against the government, stirred widespread public resentment. Before Lewis ordered the miners back to the pits, railroad service had been curtailed, freight, express, and parcel post embargoes had been imposed, and dimouts had been ordered. Hundreds of thousands of workers had been laid off and early unemployment loomed for many additional workers. Although Lewis capitulated before the effects of the approaching coal famine had reached dire proportions, the damage already done and the immediate prospect of much greater damage if the strike continued were sufficient to insure that the administration and Congress would put forth more determined effort than they did in 1946 to come to agreement on legislation calculated to prevent any repetition of such threats to the national welfare.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Labor Unions
Aug. 07, 2015  Unions at a Crossroads
Sep. 02, 2005  Labor Unions' Future Updated
Jun. 28, 1996  Labor Movement's Future
Jun. 14, 1985  Organized Labor in the 1980s
Nov. 06, 1981  Labor Under Siege
Mar. 24, 1978  Labor's Southern Strategy
Aug. 20, 1976  Labor's Options
Oct. 27, 1971  Organized Labor After the Freeze
Oct. 19, 1966  Labor Strife and the Public Interest
Jan. 30, 1963  Strike Action and the Law
Sep. 20, 1961  Conflicts in Organized Labor
Aug. 04, 1960  Labor, Management, and the National Interest
Dec. 16, 1959  Future of Free Collective Bargaining
Nov. 04, 1959  Featherbedding and Union Work Rules
Feb. 18, 1959  Public Intervention in Labor Disputes
Jul. 09, 1958  Suits Against Labor Unions
Nov. 13, 1957  Right-To-Work Laws
Oct. 31, 1956  Union Organizing
May 01, 1954  State Powers in Labor Relations
Oct. 02, 1953  Toward Labor Unity
Apr. 11, 1953  Industry-Wide Bargaining and Industry-Wide Strikes
Sep. 03, 1952  Labor and Politics
Mar. 25, 1950  Labor Injunctions
Jan. 25, 1950  Trade Unions and Productivity
Sep. 26, 1949  Fact-Finding Boards in Labor Disputes
Mar. 05, 1949  Closed Shop
Dec. 01, 1948  Revision of the Taft-Hartley Act
Jan. 01, 1947  Labor Unions, the Public and the Law
Oct. 09, 1946  Revision of the Wagner Act
Sep. 25, 1946  Labor Productivity
May 29, 1946  Labor Organization in the South
Jan. 30, 1946  Compulsory Settlement of Labor Disputes
May 18, 1945  Labor Policy After the War
Mar. 29, 1945  Union Maintenance
Feb. 02, 1945  Labor Relations in Coal Mining
Oct. 12, 1944  No-Strike Pledge
Sep. 16, 1944  Political Action by Organized Labor
May 30, 1944  Unionization of Foremen
Apr. 01, 1944  Dismissal Pay
Apr. 29, 1943  Labor in Government
Apr. 09, 1943  Public Regulation of Trade Unions
Nov. 19, 1941  Labor Policies of the Roosevelt Administration
Oct. 23, 1941  Closed Shop Issue in Labor Relations
Mar. 29, 1941  Labor as Partner in Production
Feb. 12, 1941  Labor and the Defense Program
Feb. 23, 1940  Labor in Politics
Jan. 17, 1939  Settlement of Disputes Between Labor Unions
Jul. 01, 1938  Three Years of National Labor Relations Act
Nov. 12, 1937  State Regulation of Labor Relations
Jul. 10, 1937  Restrictions on the Right to Strike
Apr. 28, 1937  The Labor Market and the Unemployed
Mar. 26, 1937  Control of the Sit-Down Strike
Mar. 13, 1937  Collective Bargaining in the Soft-Coal Industry
Jan. 22, 1937  Responsibility of Labor Unions
Nov. 11, 1936  Industrial Unionism and the A.F. of L.
Jul. 30, 1936  Federal Intervention in Labor Disputes
Jul. 14, 1936  Labor Relations in the Steel Industry
Apr. 17, 1934  Company Unions and Collective Bargaining
Feb. 07, 1934  Settlement of Labor Disputes
Sep. 12, 1933  Trade Unionism Under the Recovery Program
Feb. 17, 1932  Wage Concessions by Trade Unions
Oct. 01, 1929  Status of the American Labor Movement
Jul. 20, 1929  Trade Unionism in the South
Aug. 31, 1928  Organized Labor in National Politics
Feb. 04, 1928  The Use of Injunctions in Labor Disputes
Sep. 09, 1927  Organized Labor and the Works Council Movement
Oct. 12, 1923  The A.F. of L. and the “New Radicalism”
Commercial Law
Unions and Labor-Management Relations