With crime and corruption becoming so blatant with some unions, it was past time that it be thoroughly investigated, and if at all possible - stopped. The acid attack on Victor Riesel infuriated President Dwight Eisenhower. He wanted answers, action and mostly, he wanted these attacks to end.
Eisenhower decided to introduce legislation, which was created to sniff out corruption within labor unions.
With Robert F. Kennedy as chief counsel, Senator John L. McClellan started the investigation from the Committee on Improper Activities in Labor-Management Affairs, which focused mainly on the Teamsters union and its head, Jimmy Hoffa.
The investigation led Eisenhower to sign the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959 (or the Landrum-Griffin Act) which had two real objectives; to regulate unions and end corruption, and to reaffirm the ban on secondary boycotts from the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947.
The impact of this law was soon felt; membership in the labor unions began to trickle off.
When discussing the American organized labor movement, usually the first name that comes to mind is Jimmy Hoffa, the controversial one time head of the Teamsters from 1957 until his eventual imprisonment for fraud, bribery and jury tampering in 1967.
His rise in the Teamsters was due to his ability to finesse people, read situations and use his innate aggressive attitude for benefit. That same aggressiveness would rub others the wrong way, perhaps to his eventual detriment.
Best known for quite literally disappearing on July 30, 1975, rumors have flown wild and high over what truly happened to Hoffa. He was legally declared dead in 1982. Mr. Hoffa worked and dealt with a tough and hard crowd, and he knew figuratively where a lot of bodies were buried. Perhaps on the day he disappeared, he found out quite literally.
President John F. Kennedy, in 1962, signed an Executive Order (EO # 10988) - which would allow public employees to join or create unions, collectively bargain with the government. But, it did not allow public unions to strike, holding hostage both, the federal government and indeed, We the People.
Welcome to the public union era.
On March 18, 1970---200,000 US Postal workers walked out all over the nation for a two week wildcat strike that made the news world-wide. Demands from President Richard Nixon for the workers to return to work went unheeded; prompting him to call in the Army and National Guard to try to keep the mail running; however, this failed and mail service ground to a halt.
Even though it was illegal for public workers to strike, there were no repercussions for the wildcat strike of the postal workers. This may have set a precedent that encouraged other public employees to attempt similar efforts. But sometimes, actions have consequences.In the beginning, Nixon stated the government would not negotiate with the workers while they used threats (the strike), but with the mail figuratively held hostage the postal workers could indeed force him to negotiate, leading to the creation of the Postal Reorganization Act of 1970, which granted postal workers the rights to collective bargaining, but still no legal right to strike.
It was August 1981 and the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO) had been in talks with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) since February 1981 asking for
The government counter-offered but 95% of the union members voted a resounding no.
The FAA made plans to have stand by controllers ready, in case of strikes- which finally did occur during one of the more busy travel times of the year, August. Close to 13,000 of the 17,500 members of PATCO walked out on August 5, 1981.
Holding a press conference from the White House Rose Garden, President Ronald W. Reagan stated
“This morning at 7 a.m. the union representing those who man America's air traffic control facilities called a strike. This was the culmination of 7 months of negotiations between the Federal Aviation Administration and the union. At one point in these negotiations agreement was reached and signed by both sides, granting a $40 million increase in salaries and benefits. This is twice what other government employees can expect. It was granted in recognition of the difficulties inherent in the work these people perform. Now, however, the union demands are 17 times what had been agreed to -- $681 million. This would impose a tax burden on their fellow citizens which is unacceptable.
I would like to thank the supervisors and controllers who are on the job today, helping to get the nation's air system operating safely. In the New York area, for example, four supervisors were scheduled to report for work, and 17 additionally volunteered. At National Airport a traffic controller told a newsperson he had resigned from the union and reported to work because, ``How can I ask my kids to obey the law if I don't?'' This is a great tribute to America.
Let me make one thing plain. I respect the right of workers in the private sector to strike. Indeed, as president of my own union, I led the first strike ever called by that union. I guess I'm maybe the first one to ever hold this office who is a lifetime member of an AFL - CIO union. But we cannot compare labor-management relations in the private sector with government. Government cannot close down the assembly line. It has to provide without interruption the protective services which are government's reason for being.
It was in recognition of this that the Congress passed a law forbidding strikes by government employees against the public safety. Let me read the solemn oath taken by each of these employees, a sworn affidavit, when they accepted their jobs: ``I am not participating in any strike against the Government of the United States or any agency thereof, and I will not so participate while an employee of the Government of the United States or any agency thereof.''
It is for this reason that I must tell those who fail to report for duty this morning they are in violation of the law, and if they do not report for work within 48 hours, they have forfeited their jobs and will be terminated.”
Within 48 hours, Mr. Reagan fired the 11, 345 controllers who did not return to work, and banned them for life from any federal service.
PATCO was de-certified from union representation. This firing by Mr. Reagan shook up the public and private unions. Sometimes "no," does indeed, mean "no."
Coming up in part 3- Unions, elections and right to work.