KORYAKOVA I.K. The USA Labor Unions Against the Legislative Restraint on Their Participation in Election Campaigns (1947-1948)

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15688/jvolsu4.2014.3.6

Koryakova Irina Konstantinovna

Candidate of Sciences (History), Associate Professor, Department of World History and World Political Process,

Ogarev Mordovia State University

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Bolshevistskaya St., 68, 430005 Saransk, Russian Federation


Abstract. The article is devoted to investigating the struggle of the USA labor unions for the repeal of the Taft-Hartley law provision on the restraint of labor organizations’ political activity in connection with federal election campaigns. The author demonstrates that the united and active efforts of American labor unions became the main factor that made the USA Supreme Court interpret the Taft-Hartley law provision on the restraint of using labor expenditures for participating in election campaigns in favour of labor unions.

The Taft-Hartley law was adopted in June of 1947 and became the main document determining the trends, forms and ways of governmental intervention into labor-management relations in the U.S. Signifying the transition from liberal statism to conservative statism, the Taft-Hartley law drastically changed the character of the state regulation of labor-management relations. Designed by the political forces intending to destroy the influence of trade unions, it seriously limited the resources and opportunities of labor party to uphold the interests of working population. As a result, the leaders of the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations were unanimous in their indignation regarding new legislation which actually put direct limitations on the right of trade unions to exercise political activities including the right to finance their participation in the presidential and congressional elections. According to the Section 304 of the law, labor unions were denied the right to contributions and expenditures related to all federal elections including primaries. It meant that labor was not permitted to publish the information about the candidates and to express the opinions about them as a whole in any newspaper (labor or commercial).

The AFL and the CIO leaders called that Section unconstitutional and decided to strive for defining it unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. Following the recommendations of their lawyers, the AFL and CIO carried on the active campaign to obtain that purpose. In defiance of the provisions of the Taft-Hartley law, the CIO and the AFL published in labor and commercial newspapers the statements urging the members of trade unions to support those politicians in the federal elections who got the approval of labor organizations leadership. Consequently, the court case finally reached the halls of the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court decided that labor had the right to use money on financing its political activities with regard to the federal elections. But at the same time the Supreme Court refused to resolve the issue of the correspondence of the Taft-Hartley law with the U.S. Constitution.

Although the AFL and the CIO could not achieve their main goal they managed to obtain at least part of it, having got the opportunity to spend trade union money on the socalled educational campaigns. Labor acted persistently and even offensively and its fight revealed that the united and concerted actions, on the one hand, and resorting to the active and bold methods of activities, on the other hand, could bring the victory.

Key words: USA, labor unions, Taft-Hartley law, American Federation of Labor, Congress of Industrial Organizations, political activity, elections, Supreme Court.

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The USA Labor Unions Against the Legislative Restraint on Their Participation in Election Campaigns (1947-1948) by Koryakova I.K. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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