Fred Hartley of anti-labor Taft-Hartley Act: 1940 ca.
Anti-labor Taft Hartley law author Fred A. Hartley Jr. (R-N.J.) is shown in a photograph circa 1940.
Hartley was elected to the House of Representatives in 1928 when he was 26 years old on a conservative Republican platform by a slim margin. He won a number of close elections thereafter.
He served without distinction as a “good conservative Republican” until the elections of 1946 when Republicans gained control of both houses of Congress.
He did not have a background in labor, but was tapped to head the House Education and Labor Committee and quickly moved with Senator Robert Taft to restrict labor unions. The Act passed over President Harry S. Truman’s veto in June 1947.
The Taft-Hartley Act barred secondary boycotts, secondary strikes, and sympathy strikes. It permitted employers to wage anti-union campaigns in their workplaces. The Act permitted states to enact so-called “Right to Work” laws that allow workers covered by union contracts to opt out of union membership or service fees. The law severely limited union political contributions. The law also barred members of the U.S. Communist Party and other left-wing individuals from holding office in labor unions if those unions were to come under the jurisdiction of the National Labor Relations Board among its other restrictions.
Locally, Hartley inserted himself into the United Cafeteria and Restaurant Workers union Local 471 strike against Government Services, Inc. when he urged the union to rid “yourself of your leaders, elect good, honest Americans not afraid to sign a simple statement that they do not believe in the Communist Party platform.”
GSI refused to negotiate with the union until non-communist affidavits required by Hartley’s law were signed while union officials refused as part of a larger campaign of non-cooperation with the law by the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO).
Hartley reflected back on his law said in 1948, “To my mind, the Taft-Hartley Act represents the greatest single contribution made by any political party for the past two decades. It corrects in a single piece of legislation the outstanding mistakes of the New Deal.”
Harley didn’t run for election in 1948 and became a corporate consultant and spokesperson for further restrictions on unions.
However, in 1958 he called his law “entirely too weak” and called for stricter measurers against mass picketing and secondary boycotts. In 1959, he called for anti-trust laws to apply to labor unions in order to break up national labor contracts with employers.
On his deathbed in 1968, he sent a written appeal to the Senate to abolish the National Labor Relations Board.
For more information and related images for the 1948 cafeteria workers strike, see flic.kr/s/aHsm1ZnVra
For a deep dive into the 1948 cafeteria workers strike, see washingtonspark.wordpress.com/2018/01/02/against-the-cold...
Photograph by Harris & Ewing. The image is courtesy of the Library of Congress, Reproduction Number: LC-DIG-hec-21558 (digital file from original).