This is Steve Ember with the VOA Special English program IN THENEWS.
Twenty-nine industrial ports in the western United States areoperating again. A judge in California this week ordered the PacificMaritime Association to re-open the ports. The associationrepresents port operators and shipping companies. It closed the WestCoast ports in late September because of a dispute with theInternational Longshore and Warehouse Union. The longshoremen'sunion represents ten-thousand-five-hundred port workers.
President Bush asked for the judge's order. The president waspermitted to do so under a measure called the Taft-Hartley Act. Heargued that the port closings were harming the nation's economy andsecurity. The closings affected more than two-hundred ships filledwith goods. Some reports said the dispute was costing the UnitedStates about one-thousand-million dollars a day.
The Taft-Hartley Act became a law in nineteen-forty-seven. Itsofficial name is the Labor Management Relations Act. The measurereformed the National Labor Relations Act of nineteen-thirty-five.That law gave American workers rights they had never known before.Its main goal was to give workers the right to form labor unions sothat they would have some power in dealing with their employers.
The National Labor Relations Act led to a huge increase in thenumber of union members. The number is reported to have risen fromfewer than four-million in nineteen-thirty-five to fifteen-millionin nineteen-forty-seven. The power of unions expanded greatly as aresult.
After World War Two, Congress moved to limit the power oforganized labor. The Taft-Hartley Act barred rules that had requiredunion membership for all employees of a company. It also gave thepresident power to take steps to end a work stoppage if it threatensnational health or safety.
Mostly the act has been used to stop labor disputes. Thepresident can seek a court order to force workers to return to theirjobs for eighty days. That is commonly called a "cooling off"period. The goal is to permit time and create pressure for employersand workers to negotiate fairly.
However, unions oppose President Bush's intervention. They say itshows that his administration supports business in labor disputes.
American Presidents have used the Taft-Hartley Act thirty-sixtimes since it became law. The last time was innineteen-seventy-seven. President Jimmy Carter attempted to use theact to halt a strike by coal miners. The miners refused to obey ajudge's back-to-work order. However, they later approved anagreement with the coal companies.
Taft-Hartley also was used against the longshoreman's union innineteen-seventy-one. That was when a strike forced the closing ofall West Coast ports. President Nixon ordered a return to work and acooling off period. That strike ended after one-hundred-thirty-fourdays.
This Special English program, IN THE NEWS, was written by CatyWeaver. This is Steve Ember.