APC: Taft-Hartley Act
The Taft-Hartley Act placed restrictions on unions that were already imposed on the employer. The act gave the employer a First Amendment right to free speech that had been severely limited by the former laws. This change allowed the employer to speak out against unionization as long as the speech did not contain threats or promises to employees. The act also limited the liability of employers based on acts of managers or supervisors to those who would be considered part of these supervisors' official duty. Therefore an employer could not be held liable for a supervisor who was harassing union members for reasons unrelated to the supervisor's actual job duties. In addition, the Taft-Hartley Act allowed states to enact right-to-work laws, which made it illegal to set union membership as a condition for employment. Many states did choose to enact such laws. Other changes included removing supervisors from the bargaining unit so as to avoid the possibility of conflicting interests, and placing guards in a separate bargaining unit without any rank-and-file members. During World War II labor organizations had increased their membership at a record pace. The government relied on the labor unions during the war and even made agreements with them to prevent strikes and keep production from slowing down or grinding to a halt. During this postwar period there were concerns that labor unions had grown too powerful, as evidenced by the impact that the large-scale strikes had had on the nation. Whether in times of war or peace, the relationship between employer and employee can have an enormous impact on commerce. Because labor disputes can interrupt commerce, it is of great importance to the federal government to maintain open communication between labor unions and employers. The Constitution's commerce clause, which allows the federal government to regulate interstate commerce, was the constitutional basis for the act. The Taft-Hartley Act remains a powerful tool for labor-management relations. From its narrow adoption, and despite its many opponents, the 1947 act continues to provide valuable protection to employees, employers, and labor unions. Although labor strikes are still a very real consequence of failed labor negotiations, the rules of the Taft-Hartley Act have reduced the severity and frequency of such strikes.