Wisconsin and Ohio public employees… have been making news throughout the year with talk of strikes and collective bargaining. The Governors in question made cutting hefty public employee union contracts a priority in an attempt to balance their states’ budgets. The unions have responded by organizing sit-ins, protests, strikes, and recall attempts in both states. Workers have been crying out that their rights, under law, have been violated. The law they are citing is the Wagner Act (1935 National Labor Relations Act.) This law guaranteed workers the right to unionize and to collectively bargain. Trouble has it, the law does not apply to public workers.
The Taft-Hartley Act of 1947… reformed the Wagner Act and created a list of unfair labor practices for unions like the previous law had done to businesses. Taft-Hartely also granted the National Labor Relations Board authority to file injunctions to break strikes, granted states the power to restrict closed shops, and created waiting periods before strikes and after contracts expired. Truman vetoed the bill in 1947 but the Republican Congress overrode him. Taft-Hartley is still on the books today. Attempts by public workers in Wisconsin and Ohio to align their grievances with federal law is an exercise in futility. A sympathetic administration in Washington is sending the wrong message to the dispirited workers.
Public Employee Unions have collective bargaining… rights in several states. Teacher unions have a long history of labor unrest in this country. A better understanding of labor history and the law is needed if we are to reform collective bargaining this generation.