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Unions, OSHA and Taft Hartley. [View All]

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No Elephants Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Aug-10-13 02:54 AM
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Unions, OSHA and Taft Hartley.
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I started out looking at the history of OSHA. I no longer remember why. Then, I kept going.

History of federal workplace safety legislation

Efforts by the federal government to ensure workplace health and safety were minimal until the passage of OSHA. The American system of mass production encouraged the use of machinery, while the statutory regime did nothing to protect workplace safety. For most employers, it was cheaper to replace a dead or injured worker than it was to introduce safety measures.<2><3><4> Tort law provided little recourse for relief for the survivors of dead workers or for injured employees.<5> After the Civil War, some improvements were made through the establishment of state railroad and factory commissions, the adoption of new technology (such as the railway air brake), and more widespread availability of life insurance. But the overall impact of these improvements was minimal.<4>

The first federal safety legislation was enacted in the Progressive period. In 1893, Congress passed the Safety Appliance Act, the first federal statute to require safety equipment in the workplace (the law applied only to railroad equipment, however).<4> In 1910, in response to a series of highly-publicized and deadly mine explosions and collapses, Congress established the United States Bureau of Mines to conduct research into mine safety (although the Bureau had no authority to regulate mine safety).<6> Backed by trade unions, many states also enacted workers' compensation laws which discouraged employers from permitting unsafe workplaces.<5> These laws, as well as the growing power of labor unions and public anger toward poor workplace safety, led to significant reductions in worker accidents for a time.<4>

Industrial production increased significantly in the United States during World War II, and industrial accidents soared. Winning the war took precedence over safety, and most labor unions were more concerned with maintaining wages in the face of severe inflation than with workplace health and safety.<7> After the war ended, however, workplace accident rates remained high and began to rise. In the two years preceding OSHA's enactment, 14,000 workers died each year from workplace hazards, and another 2 million were disabled or harmed.<8> Additionally, the "chemical revolution" introduced a vast array of new chemical compounds to the manufacturing environment. The health effects of these chemicals were poorly understood, and workers received few protections against prolonged or high levels of exposure.<9><10> While a few states, such as California and New York, had enacted workplace safety as well as workplace health legislation, most states had not changed their workplace protection laws since the turn of the century.<11>

It's usually cheaper to let someone die, isn't it? Especially if paying for the funeral or supporting the survivors is not your obligation.

(Right to work, my ass.)

So, what was it that finally led Congress to act in 1910? Mine conditions? Public outcry? Unions? Or the First Russian Revolution, aka the Russian Revolution of 1905.

Note too, that during the war, speed took precedence over worker safety. For their part, the unions were more concerned with wages. I guess if you made enough, you were more likely to join the union and pay union dues? (I don't think we had check off then).

BTW, I heard someone on TV saying today that unions were the ones who pointed out to FDR that something had to be done to help the people after the Stock Market Crash of 1929, or the people might help themselves, in more ways than one.

Which brings me to another wiki article:'

he Labor Management Relations Act of 1947 29 U.S.C. 401-531 better known as the TaftHartley Act, (80 H.R. 3020, Pub.L. 80101, 61 Stat. 136, enacted June 23, 1947) is a United States federal law that restricts the activities and power of labor unions. The act, still effective, was sponsored by Senator Robert Taft and Representative Fred A. Hartley, Jr. and became law by overcoming U.S. President Harry S. Truman's veto on June 23, 1947; labor leaders called it the "slave-labor bill"<1> while President Truman argued that it was a "dangerous intrusion on free speech",<2> and that it would "conflict with important principles of our democratic society".<3> Nevertheless, Truman would subsequently use it twelve times during his presidency.<4> The TaftHartley Act amended the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA; informally the Wagner Act), which Congress passed in 1935. The principal author of the TaftHartley Act was J. Mack Swigert<5> of the Cincinnati law firm Taft, Stettinius & Hollister.

AFAIK, that was the beginning of the end for unions outside the public sector. They would never have risked work actions during WWII, but, by 1947, most people had "chicken in every pot" and I guess government began reverting back to its default.

BTW, isn't it odd that they name the lawyer and the law firm, but not the client for whom the law firm was acting? As many wikis as I have read, I have never seen an entry like that before. I think some wiki editor must have had some grudge against poor, dead Mark Swigert.)

Was Congress in the habit of hiring Cinncinnati law firms to write legislation? Or it is the same ole, same ole, practice of puttig the lobbyist who wants the law in charge of getting it written?
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