• May 21, 2022
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      Steven P. Vairma

      Steve Vairma's Column:

      We'll never ride the rocket to outer space

      What were they thinking?  I'm sure many union members were asking themselves that question a few months ago when a couple of billionaires spent a billion dollars each to rocket into outer space. And it's anybody's guess if they'll ever pay any U.S. taxes.

      Most people aren't aware of it, but much of the wealth owned today by the wealthiest of Americans was guaranteed more than 70 years ago when the Taft-Hartley Law was passed over President Truman's veto, and employers have been shortchanging workers ever since.

      The authors of the original National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) enacted in 1935, understood the fundamental truth that without full freedom to organize, workers would never achieve equality of bargaining power.  They further understood the economic instability that results from the inequality between rich and poor.

      President Truman was aware of that in 1947 when he vetoed the Taft-Hartley Act, calling it "dangerous, unworkable, harsh, arbitrary, and drastic."  The bill included Section 14b, the article allowing states to pass so-called "right-to-work" laws that lower wages, reduce benefits, and lessen working conditions, not only for union members but for all workers.

      The vote to overturn Truman's veto was not close in Congress, 68 to 24 in the Senate and 308 to 107 in the House.

      At the time, the President said the hard facts of the roll call "showed that Democrats are voting more and more like Republicans." And that stands today.

      Several restrictive amendments were added to the legislation after the veto was defeated, and they have stifled union organizing for more than seven decades.  Thus, in passing Taft-Hartley, Congress made organized labor forever the underdog in labor-management conflicts, and the union movement has never recovered.

      Since the law was enacted in 1947, no legislation that allows unions enough freedom to effectively organize workers has been considered.

      The PRO Act's most significant contribution to working men and women would be overriding crippling right-to-work laws, 15 of which were enacted in the first seven years after Taft-Hatley became law.  Today there are right-to-work laws in 28 states, and union density in the national workplace is only seven percent.  It was about 35 percent when Taft-Hartley was enacted.

      Four of the seven states in Teamsters Joint Council 3 are right-to-work states.

      The PRO ACT would put the labor movement on the move again.

      Unfortunately, though, you'll never get a ride to outer space.

      But life on earth will be better for a whole lot of American workers.

      Teamsters Joint Council No. 3 Truck loading up... Water, Diapers, Texas Aid

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