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TO REGULATE LABOR ORGANIZATIONS
TUESDAY, MAY 11, 1943
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
SUBCOMMITTEE OF THE COMMITTEE ON LABOR,
Washington, D. C.
The subcommittee met at 10:30 a. m., Hon. Thomas E. Scanlon presiding.
Mr. SCANLON. The committee will come to order.
The first witness will be Mr. Landis the author of bill, H. R. 1483, which requires the furnishing of certain information by labor organizations and to prohibit political contributions by labor organizations. Are you ready, Mr. Landis? You may proceed now.
STATEMENT OF HON. G. W. LANDIS, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF INDIANA
Mr. LANDIS. Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, I am exceedingly grateful to this committee for granting me a hearing on H. R. 1483, a bill designed to require the furnishing of certain information about labor organizations and to prohibit them from contributing to political campaigns. This hearing will give the public an opportunity to learn the facts about the labor situation.
The fact that a hearing has been granted is a high tribute to the ability of the Labor Committee to recognize the fact that public opinion toward the conduct of labor unions is rapidly undergoing a change. The public thinks, and has a right to think, that labor unions, as public institutions should be granted the same rights and no greater rights than any other public group. My bill seeks to put labor unions on exactly the same basis, insofar as their financial activities are concerned, as corporations have been on for many years. The terms of my bill are no more onerous or exacting, in fact considerably less so, than regulation imposed generally under existing State and Federal laws.
Under all State laws, corporations are required at the minimum to make detailed annual reports on their affairs to the States under whose laws they are respectively incorporated. Since the institution of the Federal Securities and Exchange Commission, all corporations engaged in interstate commerce, which under Supreme Court decisions now embraces practically the entire field of corporate activity, are required to make voluminous reports at periodic intervals going into considerably greater detail than annual State reports.
With respect to corporations, therefore, it is fair to say that as of today practically every phase of their corporate lives are microscopically exposed to public scrutiny.
The requirements imposed upon labor organizations by the Landis bill cover a substantially similar field in less detail.
This bill is not the result of an idea which has come to me suddenly. It is the result of long and careful deliberation on the long-haul welfare of my many friends in organized labor. As is well known, I come from a district which has many union workers. Many members of these unions are my friends. They have helped send me to Congress. They were responsible, in part, for my being made a member of this committee. Since I have been on this committee I have striven to the best of my ability to do everything I could to further their best interests. My voting record will show that.
For a long period I stood steadfast, just as the Washington representatives of most labor unions are now standing, against any change in existing labor laws. I sincerely thought that efforts to amend them came largely from unfair employers and others whose chief purpose was to break down labor unions. So long as I thought that, I refused to budge one inch in my refusal to help change existing labor laws.
But some 2 years ago I began to realize that I was mistaken and labor leaders were mistaken in their steadfast, not-budge-an-inch attitude. I recognized the fact that the public believed labor, after having been generously dealt with by Congress and the administration, was unwilling to meet certain obligations which were due the public. One of the matters upon which I sensed that the public was taking a stand opposite to that of labor leaders was the question of the handling of funds of labor organizations. The public was aroused by many rumors of huge war chests being maintained by labor unions, of enormous fees and dues being extorted from war workers, of political contributions to parties and candidates which later were held as clubs over the head of high Federal officials. The public wanted to know the truth about these stories. Maybe they were false. Maybe they were true. Whether true or false, the public demanded and justly so, to know the facts.
I was so concerned over this situation that I sought counsel from my friends among labor leaders. To my great surprise, I found them absolutely unaware of the obvious change in public sentiment. When I talked with them they insisted that these demands for facts about labor organization financial activities came only from the foes of labor. Apparently these leaders had not seen the light. My most earnest and friendly efforts to make them understand that they should get in step with the times were unavailing. My urgent pleas that honest labor unions had nothing to fear from making all the facts about their finances public and that crooked unions should be exposed, produced only bitter and unreasoning criticism.
The situation was desperately discouraging. I was confident that the labor leaders were heading into trouble if they continued their opposition to what I regarded as reasonable public demands. Further, I questioned if the administration, which usually had been guided by the merest whims of labor leaders, would do or say anything about the situation.
Imagine my surprise when, on Tuesday, October 7, 1941, I read in a newspaper that Secretary Perkins, in an address to the Á. F. of L. convention in Seattle, Wash., had sharply pointed out the very things