Sanders and Warren Want To Dismantle Much Of The Taft-Hartley Act, Including ‘Right To Work’ Laws

Rich Yeselson’s must-read piece in The American Prospect takes a look at the anti-union law known as the Taft-Hartley Act and the two presidential candidates who want to repeal much of it.

Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren both have detailed, and slightly differing, plans for much-needed labor law reform.

Yeselson writes that “What is most interesting about the two plans, though, is that they both propose to repeal sections of the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act.”

As the more progressive candidates, it is no surprise that both want to do away with the Section 14(b) of the Act, which allows for so-called “right-to-work” laws.

But Yeselson notes that “Sanders and Warren also wish to revise or repeal other important sections of the act that pretty much nobody has bothered thinking about in decades.”

Their “proposals address the parts of the law that define who is eligible to join a union, particularly the vexed issue of who is a ‘supervisor.’ They also go after Taft-Hartley’s prohibition of secondary boycotts and the rights of ’employer’s free speech’ in opposing organizing drives. Sanders and Warren would allow the NLRB to certify a union if a majority of workers in a bargaining unit sign authorization cards—a right eliminated by Taft-Hartley. They would also require binding arbitration if the parties cannot reach a collective-bargaining agreement. This last set of issues is one that labor has sought through the Employee Free Choice Act (the ‘card check’ bill) for many years; so let’s turn to the candidates’ other, more novel, ideas.”

Yeselson also touches on the candidates’ positions on the Act’s prohibition of secondary boycotts, noting that “both pledge to legalize” them.

While Sanders and Warren want to eliminate many portions of the Act, Yeselson wishes they would go further.

“I don’t quite understand, however, why the two presidential candidates didn’t just propose the full repeal of every clause and line of Taft-Hartley,” he writes. “It’s a terrible, incoherent law that represents postwar corporate rage toward labor unions, burgeoning anti-communism, and the South’s fear of an organizing alliance between the CIO and returning black soldiers. Given that the senators’ policy proposals are, surely, aspirational in many respects, why not just shoot the moon: Get rid of this awful law!”

It’s hard not to feel his exasperation. The Taft-Hartley Act has long been little more than a weapon for management against workers. It’s challenging to find anything in it worth keeping that would not hurt the labor movement.

To read Yeselson’s full piece – and I believe everyone who is voting in 2020 should – click here to go The American Prospect page.

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