rectly in the legislative process through the political device of the initiative.


The La Follette Committee also documented attempts by associations to influence legislation at the national level. It described opposition to the Labor Disputes Bill of 1934, which was introduced by Senator Wagner to broaden the powers of the National Labor Relations Board, but which failed of passage. "Urgent appeals from the National Association of Manufacturers were sent to its associated employers' organizations. The National Metal Trades Association in particular became active, and collaborated with the National Association of Manufacturers in opposing the bill. It telegraphed its members suggesting that they send the 'strongest possible industrial group' to appear at the hearings. The wire suggested that request for appearance be made 'in the name of individuals. or local groups and not in the name of the association.' Further, according to the La Follette Committee, employers were advised to "try to have their employees appear in opposition to the bill, or if this was not possible, to have 'as many employees as possible write their Congressmen and the committee chairman in opposition to it.'" Group action on the part of employers' associations in different parts of the country was suggested. Following all this activity, according to the committee, "the Wagner Labor Disputes Bill of 1934 did not come up on the floor of the Senate. The National Association of Manufacturers claimed credit for this." 35 Subsequently, in 1935, Senator Wagner introduced a new bill (S.1958), which ultimately was passed as the National Labor Relations (Wagner) Act. When this bill was introduced, the National Association of Manufacturers immediately set out to prevent its adoption. It "besieged employers with numerous communications, asking them to appear as witnesses, to write to their senators, and to unite the employers' associations, chambers of commerce, and individual employers in opposition to the bill." As a result of the Association's efforts, "employers' associations, large corporations, and works councils were well represented at the hearings." As it became increasingly probable that the bill would be enacted, the president of the Association, according to the La Follette Committee, sent a letter to members suggesting "(1) advising your suppliers and dealers of the importance of this bill to your company, (2) writing your senators in opposition to the bill, or your representatives; (3) requesting groups with which you are affiliated to take similar action." 36 Further, the Association "proceeded to mobilize its own membership, the executives of associations affiliates to bring direct pressure upon

34 S. Rept. 6, 76th Cong., 1st Sess., Aug. 14, 1939, p. 85.

35 Ibid., p. 86.

36 Ibid., p. 103.

congressmen, to arouse employee opposition against the bill, and to initiate educational campaigns in each locality" against it. The Committee reported that "Washington pilgrimages" by industrialists were recommended by an official of the Association, who wrote: 37

Of course, one of the most effective means of combatting this legislation is the "Come to Washington" idea, concerning which we wrote you sometime ago. Since that time the Illinois Manufacturers' Association brought down quite a delegation. The Manufacturers' Association of Hartford Courty has had representation in Washington for nearly a week. The Connecticut Manufacturers' Association is planning to bring their congressional delegation back to Hartford for a dinner at which time they will tell them industry's viewpoint on the Wagner Bill and other legislation. The Virginia Manufacturers' Association is planning to hold a meeting of its Board of Directors in Washington the first part of April. The Missouri Association is coming down next week. The faraway Colorado Manufacturers' Association is bringing down a group the middle of April. There is nothing quite so effective as these personal calls: So therefore do not overlook the value of doing this same thing in your community. Let us know if this is possible. It does not have to be a big delegation. We will gladly meet with your committee in Washington before their calls and check over the presentation of material.

The La Follette Committee also noted that an official of the National Association of Manufacturers "suggested that the industrial members of regional labor boards be encouraged to write to the President of the United States in opposition to the bill" and that there be a distribution of pamphlets and other propaganda through newspapers, radio, clubs and other groups, and bulletin-board notices and other communications. to employees to arouse public opinion against the pending legislation. After the Senate committee considering the proposed Wagner Act reported favorably on the bill, according to the La Follette Committee, industrialists and association executives were urged to resort to radio broadcasting in opposition to it. “One, two, or three speeches from every radio station in the country during this crucial period when Congress is formulating its final program, explaining important issues to the people, urging them to express their views to Congress, would be tremendously effective. Our experience indicates that virtually every radio station will give time to a prominent citizen to discuss national issues. The national networks have no hesitancy in granting requests." The Association offered to supply material for broadcasts upon telegraphic request.38

Following the adoption of the Wagner Act, the employers' associations found difficulty in accepting it, and they engaged in a continuous and

[blocks in formation]

strenuous campaign to nullify or weaken the Act. A strong propaganda campaign utilizing all media of communications was carried on, and lobbying and other political activities designed to influence legislation continued in effect.39

39 For details, see Harry A. Millis and Emily Clark Brown, From the Wagner Act to Taft-Hartley, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1950, pp. 281-296.


Direct Action against Unionism

Prior to the profound changes which occurred in the early 1930's, employers as a class had succeeded in gaining the ascendancy in bargaining power over their employees. It is not surprising, then, that they should have devoted more energy to attempts aimed at the destruction of employee organizations and less to the consolidation of their own gains. They had attained great strength; further efforts would only result in the disapprobation of the public, which fears monopoly. In spite of legislation which has materially weakened them in recent years, employers still seem to feel that they stand to gain more by trying to weaken the bargaining power of employees than by spending the same amount of effort trying to strengthen their own. The forms such action takes are discussed in this and the following chapter.

Individual Employment Contracts. The National Labor Relations Board under both the Wagner Act and the Taft-Hartley Act has condemned the practice by which employers negotiate with individual employees and thereby prevent or interfere with collective bargaining. In order to defeat collective bargaining, some employers used an ingenious form of agreement known as the “Balleisen formula." This was an agreement between the employer and "the duly elected collective bargaining committee" of the employees, but it included a clause stating that "the employees, or any of them, shall not and have not the right to demand recognition by the employer of any union." The National Labor Relations Board held that the agreement denied to employees the right to union recognition and that although it purported to be a collective agreement, it was an individual employment contract.1

The question of relating a lawful individual contract to collective-bargaining agreements was dealt with by the Supreme Court in J. I. Case Co. v. National Labor Relations Board. In that case, the employer had


1 Matter of Hopwood Retinning Co., Inc., 4 N.L.R.B. 922 (1938). See also National Licorice Co. v. National Labor Relations Board, 309 U.S. 530 (1940).

2 321 U.S. 332 (1944).

individual agreements with about 75 per cent of his employees, and in dealing with the union he refused to revoke or alter these individual agreements prior to their dates of expiration. The Supreme Court rejected the view of the employer and stated, referring to the National Labor Relations Act: 3

Wherever private contracts conflict with its functions, they obviously must yield or the Act would be reduced to a futility. It is equally clear that since the collective trade agreement is to serve the purpose contemplated by the Act, the individual contract cannot be effective as a waiver of any benefit to which the employee otherwise would be entitled under the-trade agreement. The very purpose of providing by statute for the collective agreement is to supersede the terms of separate agreements of employees with terms which reflect the strength and bargaining power and serve the welfare of the group. Its benefits and advantages are open to every employee of the represented unit, whatever the type or terms of his pre-existing contract of employment.


Industrial Espionage. The first National War Labor Board ruled in 1918 that "espionage by agents or representatives of the company, visits by officials of the company to the neighborhood of the meeting place of the organization for the purpose of observing the men who belong to such unions, to their detriment as employees of the company, and like actions the intent of which is to discourage and prevent men from exercising this right of organization, must be deemed an interference with their rights as laid down in the principles of the Board." Previously (in 1916) the United States Commission on Industrial Relations found espionage to be prevalent in American industry. Detective agencies were found to be placing undercover men in plants in order to spy upon and report the activities of employees and to supply names for black lists. It was reported that these men were used also for the purpose of influencing the workmen, and occasionally they fomented unrest in order to justify and create further demand for their services. It was the conclusion of the Commission that the use of labor spies by employers caused unrest and dissatisfaction among workmen and "led to violent and destructive conflicts." 5

With the passage of the Wagner Act, and continuing with the TaftHartley Act, industrial espionage and various forms of surveillance have

3 See also Heinrich Hoeniger, "The Individual Employment Contract Under the Wagner Act," 10 Fordham Law Review 14, 389 (1941), noted by the Supreme Court in this case; and Medo Photo Supply Corp. v. National Labor Relations Board, 321 U.S. 678 (1944).

4 In re Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers v. New York Consolidated Ry., N.W.L.B. Case No. 283 (Oct. 24, 1918); U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Bulletin 287, December, 1921, pp. 263–265.

5 U.S. Commission on Industrial Relations, Final Report, S. Doc. 415, 64th Cong., 1916, pp. 17-158. See also Sidney Howard, The Labor Spy, Republic Publishing Co., New York, 1924.

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