Union rushes to turn in anti-communist affidavit: 1947
Office Employees International Union, AFL president Paul S. Hutchings (left) became the first union to turn in affidavits sworn by each officer that they are not members of the Communist Party September 12, 1947 following passage of the Taft-Hartley Act.
The Taft Hartley Act banned Communist Party members from serving in the leadership of labor unions, among other anti-union provisions that included permitting states to enact “right to work” laws and banning the secondary boycott.
Hutchings sought to use anti-communism to gain members from the rival United Public Workers of America (UPWA), CIO that was taking a stance to refuse to fill out the affidavits as a violation of Constitutional rights. A number of other major unions initially threatened to withhold the affidavits.
In 1948 the Washington, D.C. Cafeteria Workers Union Local 471, an affiliate of the UPWA went on strike for two months after a government contractor refused to bargain with the union. The strike was lost, but the union was preserved after relenting and signing the affidavits.
The UPWA, which had over 100,000 members in the federal and state governments, was expelled by the CIO along with 10 other unions in 1949 and quickly fell apart over charges of communist affiliation by its president Abram Flaxer and secretary-treasurer Ewart Guinier as well as a number of local leaders.
It had been one of the most progressive unions, with African Americans and women in its leadership and a strong stance in favor of including women and workers of color.
The UPWA disbanded in 1953. The Office Employees union is now known as the Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU).
Guinier’s daughter, Lani had her nomination for Asst. U.S. Attorney General for Civil Rights derailed in 1993 in part because of her father’s work with the UPW.
The only major union to actually refuse to submit the affidavits was the United Mine Workers of America led by John L. Lewis.
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The photographer is unknown. The image is an auction find.