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Eisenhower and Landrum-Griffin

Eisenhower and Landrum-Griffin: A Study in Labor-Management Politics

Copyright Date: 1990
Pages: 216
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  • Book Info
    Eisenhower and Landrum-Griffin
    Book Description:

    During the 1950s two Senate investigations, both highly publicized through the new medium of television, revealed the spread of racketeers and corruption among labor unions. Taking advantage of these sensational revelations, business interests, who for years had chafed against the federal government's pro-labor policies, mounted a campaign to curb labor's power. With the support of the business-oriented administration of Dwight Eisenhower, they pushed through Congress a new "reform" law -- the Landrum-Griffin Act. In this book, R. Alton Lee, author of an earlier study of the Taft-Hartley law, offers the first detailed legislative history of this important act and with it an examination of the Eisenhower presidency.

    Lee traces the development of the public's distrust of labor leaders and the rising sentiment for reform and then follows the progress of the legislation through both houses of Congress in the midst of moves and countermoves by labor and management. He shows how some of the leading actors in the struggle -- notably John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, and Barry Goldwater -- used the occasion to further their political ambitions. In the final vote the swing of public opinion against labor and the potent combination of conservative southern Democrats and northern Republicans secured for the law an overwhelming majority in Congress.

    The enactment of the Landrum-Griffin law, Lee concludes, is yet another example of Eisenhower's astuteness as a politician, one who marshaled the force of his popular appeal and adroitly deployed his administrative aides to achieve his goal. It also provides a revealing example of the interplay among public, president, and Congress in the American system.

    Eisenhower and Landrum-Griffinmakes a valuable contribution to political and labor history and to a deeper understanding of the Eisenhower presidency.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-5924-9
    Subjects: Law, Political Science, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-xii)
  4. 1. Unions and the Democrats
    (pp. 1-17)

    It is a truism that labor unions thrive on adversity, and seldom in American history did they face greater affliction than during the Great Depression. As the economic spiral continued downward during the 1930s, desperate workers turned increasingly to the American Federation of Labor (AFL) for union charters in hopes of bettering their lot through organization and collective bargaining. In turn, President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his New Deal administration decided these efforts needed encouragement and assistance and persuaded Congress to establish a national labor policy that promoted the growth of unions.

    In an effort to stimulate industrial recovery, the...

  5. 2. Unions and the Republicans
    (pp. 18-44)

    When the American people elected Dwight Eisenhower president in 1952 and gave the Republicans control of Congress for only the second time since 1930, many union leaders knew it was unrealistic to expect repeal of the Taft-Hartley Act. Officially, the CIO continued to insist on repeal, but the AFL decided to work for amendments that would remove features that adversely affected some AFL affiliates. Union leaders were uncertain which changes the new president would support because almost nothing was known about his attitude toward unions except that he was a Republican and therefore would probably be supportive of management. Labor...

  6. 3. Enter Mr. Beck . . . and Mr. Hoffa
    (pp. 45-73)

    While the Eisenhower administration was developing proposed amendments to Taft-Hartley, former congressman Fred Hartley sent a statement of his views on the labormanagement scene to each member of Congress. Hartley was particularly incensed that “the present palace guard” was ignoring the need to protect the rights of individual workers. Hartley pointed out that his original bill had contained a “bill of rights” for the American worker but that he was forced to remove it in the conference committee. Congress should reexamine his proposal, he asserted, in rewriting the Taft-Hartley Act. These rights included secret ballots for calling a strike, for...

  7. 4. Senator Kennedy Writes a Bill
    (pp. 74-96)

    In April 1954 a subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Labor and Public Welfare began a thorough investigation of the administration of union welfare funds. The Democrats gained control of Congress in the elections of 1954, and Senator Paul Douglas of Illinois chaired the committee in the following year. The committee found many abuses: funds administered solely by the union in violation of the law; employers indifferent to administration of these funds; high administrative costs; low insurance benefits; policies changed by insurance brokers for their own financial benefit; and state and national laws that were inadequate to regulate effectively the...

  8. 5. Senator Kennedy Tries Again
    (pp. 97-116)

    The McClellan Rackets Committee issued its interim report in March 1958 but continued its investigations through 1959. Its revelations of corruption in labormanagement relations fueled an ever-increasing public demand for reform. A Gallup poll conducted 7 to 12 November 1958 asked what legislation the new Congress should pass. The school integration crisis ranked first; second was the desire to “clean up corruption and racketeering in unions.” A poll conducted during the second week in January 1959 showed that only 6 percent of the respondents regarded labor laws as “too strict,” while 49 percent believed they were “not strict enough,” 20...

  9. 6. The Two Sides Gird for Battle
    (pp. 117-137)

    More labor reform bills were introduced in Congress in 1959 than in any year since 1947. Almost fifty measures were presented, most of them in the House of Representatives. Early in the year both labor and management and Democrats and Republicans began developing strategies for pressing the particular proposal they desired through the House to strengthen or weaken the Senate-passed Kennedy bill.

    President Eisenhower was determined to get a labor reform bill from Congress that contained the points he had asked for in 1958 and again in 1959. By 1959 his White House staff was functioning efficiently under its new...

  10. 7. The Forces Engage
    (pp. 138-159)

    Labor reform legislation was the hottest topic debated in the first session of the Eighty-sixth Congress, but a related issue, civil rights, was also a major problem at that time. The next year, in the second session, it would be the principal subject of discussion and would culminate in the Civil Rights Act of 1960. The two issues often were closely intertwined because the conservative coalition found common agreement on them and votes on the two were used as trade-offs. Southern Democrats would support northern Republicans with labor reform legislation if the Republicans would help ward off civil rights laws....

  11. 8. The Impact of the Law
    (pp. 160-167)

    Evidence of the impact of Landrum-Griffin on labor-management relations is scarce, often biased, frequently contradictory, and inconclusive. Some observations can be made, however, on the basis of a few years’ experience with the operation of the law.

    For the first time in American history a federal agency was charged with refereeing the internal operation of private organizations. To accomplish its new supervisory role in labor-management relations, the Department of Labor established a Bureau of Labor Management Reports. After 1963 the day-to-day administration of the policy was handled by the Office of Labor Management Standards Enforcement, headed by an assistant secretary...

  12. 9. Some Assessments
    (pp. 168-174)

    The Republican government of the 1950s was oriented toward business, yet the Eisenhower years were also good in many ways for organized labor. In addition to union achievements such as the guaranteed annual wage and the merger of the AFL-CIO, other labor goals were reached during the decade. The minimum wage was increased, and, as George Meany recalled, “labor certainly made tremendous progress in health, education, medical care and things like that.... So the Eisenhower Administration, in my book, was by no means a bad time for labor.”¹

    In 1953 Eisenhower and Taft tried an accommodationist approach to labor policy...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 175-193)
  14. Index
    (pp. 194-204)