Presidential Injunctions under the Taft Hartley Act

The Taft-Hartley Act is the main federal law governing collective bargaining in the United States.  It includes a process for enjoining strikes or lockouts that might cause national emergencies.  The process for obtaining such an injunction is as follows:

Under Section 176 of the Act, the President may appoint a board of inquiry to study the issues involved in a labor dispute, if in his/her opinion "a threatened or actual strike or lockout affecting an entire industry . . . engaged in trade, commerce, transportation, transmission or communication among several States or with foreign nations . . . will imperil the national health or safety."  This Board of Inquiry has the power to conduct hearings and has powers of discovery.

After a time specified by the President, the board is required to provide a report to the President which includes a statement of the facts and each party's statement of its position.  The Board does not provide a recommendation to the President.  The contents of the report are made available to the public. 

Upon receiving the report, Section 178 of the Act allows the president to direct the Attorney General to petition any district court in the Unites States having jurisdiction of the parties to "enjoin such strike or lock-out or the continuing threat thereof."  If the court finds that such a threatened or actual strike or lock-out:  1) does, in fact, affect an entire industry, and 2) would imperil the national health or safety, it has the jurisdiction to enjoin the strike.

Whenever a court issues an injunction under Section 178 of the Act, the parties of the dispute are required to make every effort to adjust and settle their differences, with the assistance of the federal mediation service (although neither party is under any duty to accept any proposal of the service). 

The President also reconvenes the Board of Inquiry and at the end of a sixty day period (unless the dispute has been settled by that time), the Board must report the current position of the parties and the efforts which have been made for settlement, including a statement of the employer's last offer. 

If the strike continues, the NLRB, within the succeeding fifteen days shall take a secret ballot of the employees of each employer involved in the dispute on the question of whether they wish to accept the final offer of the settlement made by their employer.

Upon certification of the results of the ballot (or settlement) the Attorney General shall move the court to discharge the injunction within five days.

Since 1947, the White House has used this power in 32 disputes.  Thirty percent of Taft-Hartley injunctions have not resulted in a settlement during the prescribed cooling-off period.  Taft-Hartley injunctions are, therefore, an absolute last resort. 




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