Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Twenty Labor-Act Revisions

John L. Lewis’s cancellation of the coal strike was not a surrender but a strategic postponement. In ordering the miners back to work “until 12 o’clock midnight, March 31, 1947,” he was in effect issuing a new strike call for that time.

There is no longer any excuse for regarding Mr. Lewis as an isolated accident. His solid support by both AFL and CIO leaders makes him a fitting symbol of the real labor problem today. That problem is not “Labor versus Capital” but the irresponsible and unbridled power of labor-union bosses.

The only proper way in which Lewis and other union bosses can be curbed is by a thorough revision of existing labor law, particularly the Wagner Act. Short of repeal, here are the amendments necessary:

1—Remove the joker which deprives management of the power to dismiss strikers and offer permanent employment to other workers. This more than any single provision has encouraged strikes by making it impossible for employers to take the normal means to counteract them.

2—Halt the NLRB’s drive to unionize foremen and other representatives of management.

3—Forbid unionists as well as employers to “interfere with, restrain, or coerce” workers in the exercise of their right to join or not to join unions.

4—Restore employers’ freedom of speech about unions wherever it does not involve actual threats.

5—As long as the law forbids employer “discrimination. . .to encourage or discourage membership in any labor organization,” it must in consistency also forbid the closed shop, “maintenance of membership,” and the checkoff.

6—Define “collective bargaining” so that it cannot be construed to require either party to meet a demand of the other in whole or in part.

7—Require unions as well as employers to bargain under this clarified definition.

8—Permit a majority union to bargain for its own members, but not “exclusively” for all workers unless the employer consents.

9—Remove the NLRB power to name any bargaining unit larger than the workers for a single firm. This would not illegalize nationwide unions, but simply withdraw Wagner Act support from them.

10—Restrict the NLRB’s power to throw off the ballot whatever it chooses to call a “company union.” Allow employees “representatives of their own choosing.”

11—Permit employers as well as unions to ask for bargaining elections.

12—Provide that any union claiming NLRB protection must come with clean hands; must use legal methods; must not be run by racketeers; must elect officers at reasonable intervals, publish accounts, have reasonable initiation fees and dues, and must not exclude new members unless they cannot meet fair skill standards.

13—Confine Federal intervention to workers clearly in interstate commerce.

14—Delete the clause that in NLRB proceedings “the rules of evidence prevailing in courts of law shall not be controlling.”

15—Put the burden of proof on the complainant.

16—Allow appeals from NLRB decisions to the courts.

17—Make factual findings of the NLRB no longer “conclusive” unless they are clearly sustained by the evidence.

18—Punish unfair labor practices by reasonable indemnification of the aggrieved employee but not by his compulsory reinstatement.

19—Repeal or revise the Norris-LaGuardia Act to make unions once more responsible for acts of their agents and to permit courts to halt union intimidation or violence.

20—Allow antitrust acts to apply against clearly antisocial practices of union monopolies.
Will all this mean excessive union regulation, a violation of labor’s basic rights? If so, union leaders are  free to choose between two-sided law of this kind and terminating the present one-sided coercions against employers. It should be pointed out, however, that a revised labor law of this kind would do nothing to illegalize strikes. It would even continue to leave some unions free to act antisocially. But it would at least no longer fasten such unions on employers by law.

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