Taft-Hartley Act

DEFINITION of 'Taft-Hartley Act'

The Taft-Hartley Act is a 1947 federal law that prohibits certain union practices and requires disclosure of certain financial and political activities by unions.

BREAKING DOWN 'Taft-Hartley Act'

The Labor Management Relations Act, commonly known as the Taft-Hartley Act, amended the 1935 National Labor Relations (or Wagner) Act. Congress passed the Taft-Hartley Act in 1947, overriding President Harry Truman's veto. Union critics at the time called it the "slave-labor bill," but the Republican-controlled Congress – encouraged by the business lobby – saw it as necessary to counter union abuses, to end a string of large-scale strikes that broke out after the end of World War II, and to suppress Communist influence in the labor movement.

The Wagner Act – and therefore the Taft-Hartley Act – does not cover domestic or farm workers.

Key Amendments

Taft-Hartley outlined six unfair practices by labor unions and provided remedies, in the form of amendments, for protecting employees from harm resulting from these practices. Previously the Wagner Act had only addressed unfair labor practices perpetrated by employers.

One amendment protected employees' rights under Section 7 of the Wagner Act, which gave employees the right to form unions and engage in collective bargaining with employers. This amendment protected employees from unfair coercion by unions that could result in discrimination against employees.

A second amendment said that an employer cannot refuse to hire prospective employees because they won't join a union. However, an employer has the right to sign an agreement with a union that requires an employee to join the union on or before the employee's 30th day of employment.

A third amendment stipulated that unions have a requirement to bargain in good faith with employers. This amendment balanced the provisions of the Wagner Act, which required good faith bargaining by employers.

A fourth amendment prohibited secondary boycotts by unions. For example, if a union has a dispute with an employer, the union cannot, under the law, coerce or urge another entity to stop doing business with that employer.

A fifth amendment prohibited unions from taking advantage of their members or employers. Unions were prohibited from charging their members excessive initiation fees or membership dues. In addition, unions were prohibited from causing employers to pay for work that its members did not perform.

A sixth amendment added a free speech clause for employers. Employers have the right to express their views and opinions about labor issues, and these views do not constitute unfair labor practices provided the employer is not threatening to withhold benefits or engage in other retribution against employees.

Changes to Elections

The Taft-Hartley Act made changes to union election rules. These changes excluded supervisors from bargaining groups and gave special treatment to certain professional employees.

The Taft-Hartley Act also created four new types of elections. One gave employers the right to vote on union demands. The other three gave employees the rights to hold elections on the status of incumbent unions, to determine whether a union has the power to enter into agreements for employees and to withdraw union representation after it's granted. In 1951 Congress repealed the provisions governing union shop elections.