AFTER ten years of Taft-Hartley, it is time to look back; but looking back can be a deadly indulgence. If we seek to justify our past, or if we long to return, we can like Lot's wife be turned to a pillar of salt standing helpless on the desert. Our backward glance is deadening unless we look through the past to see guidelines for the future. Our appraisal must be more than a judgment of whether the Act has succeeded or failed it must give us wisdom to go forward. It should give us greater insight as to future steps in the development of labor law. The Act has remained substantially unchanged for ten years. This does not prove its validity, but may only demonstrate the obstacles to legislating in the field of labor-management relations. Certain defects in the statute and the need for clarifying or corrective legislation have been painfully obvious. The thicket of words in Section 8(d) which purports to define the duty to bargain has baffled the Board and the courts for ten years; the latent vacuity of Section 301, which allows suits for breach of contracts, was laid bare by the Supreme Court in the Westinghouse case; the disruptive impact of the closed shop provisions on the building trades has been uniformly recognized; the wishful optimism of the cession clause in Section 10(a) produced a foreboding fear of a "no-man's land" between federal and state power, and now the Supreme Court's barbed wire entanglements have made that fear a reality. In spite of all these patent defects, political pressures have brought no corrective action but only legislative paralysis. In this area the interests are so strong and so deeply held that the gradual evolving of legislation is impossible. We do not move by small steps but rather by sporadic leaps. The last ten years have emphasized the need to legislate with the greatest care and foresight, for even bad provisions may live long.
Date of Authorship for this Version
Summers, Clyde W., "A Summary Evaluation of the Taft-Hartley Act" (1958). Faculty Scholarship Series. Paper 3900.