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Republican Party Platforms On Collective Bargaining, 1920-2020

| Jan 06, 2021 | Labor

In 2020 Donald Trump won 40 percent of voters who live in a household with at least one member in a labor union, slightly fewer than the 42 percent of union households who voted for him in 2016.  With the exception of Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden won fewer union households than any recent Democratic presidential candidate.  While presiding over an otherwise conventional Republican administration, Trump devoted much of his term to thwarting Chinese mercantilism, attempting to reshore industry and renegotiating NAFTA, replacing it with the USMCA, which is more protective of American manufacturing jobs—goals shared by organized labor in the private sector.  In the 2020 election, sizeable minorities of working-class Hispanics, blacks and Asian-Americans shifted nationwide toward Republicans, while managers, professionals and investors gave Biden the edge he needed to win the White House.  In 2019, according to Gallup, nearly half of all Republicans—45 percent—approved of labor unions, compared to 61 percent of independents, 82 percent of Democrats and 60 percent of Americans as a whole.

Nevertheless, with a few exceptions like Senator Marco Rubio, most contemporary Republican elected officials express an unremitting hostility to the very existence of labor unions.  In the case of public sector unions, this is understandable.  Even President Franklin D. Roosevelt rejected collective bargaining with public sector unions and strikes by public sector employees.  And public sector unions have become de facto wings of the Democratic Party, funneling membership fees into Democratic campaign contributions until their power to do so was limited by the Supreme Court in the recent case of Janus v. AFSCME (2018).

But Republican politicians and the libertarian-dominated conservative intelligentsia for the most part oppose the very existence of organized labor.  Even though Trump won the electoral college in 2016 thanks largely to unionized workers in the industrial Midwest, the 2016 Republican platform declared:   “We support the right of states to enact Right-to-Work laws and call for a national law to protect the economic liberty of the modern workforce.”

Right to work laws, by allowing employees to refuse to join unions in unionized workplaces, are lethal to the inherited U.S. system of enterprise-based collective bargaining.  Enterprise bargaining is inferior to alternatives like industry-wide, multi-employer sectoral bargaining and industry-wide wage boards, so the demise of enterprise bargaining need not be lamented if it is replaced by one of these other systems of collective bargaining.  But on this issue the existing Republican party is indistinguishable from the Libertarian Party, viewing organized labor and collective bargaining as inherently illegitimate.  Notwithstanding the support for labor unions of nearly half of the Republican Party electorate, the party itself holds that nothing must interfere with the God-given right of an isolated individual with a high school education to freely drive a hard bargain for wages with a multinational corporation.

This extreme libertarian view has prevailed in the Republican Party only since the 1990s.  With the exception of the platform of 1924, which pushed a number of specific pro-labor laws, and the platform associated with the disastrous and aberrant Goldwater candidacy in 1964, every Republican platform from 1920 to 1996 declared its support in principle for collective bargaining.

To be sure, a large number of Republicans were vehemently anti-union throughout that sixty-year period, and the GOP supported the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947 which authorized states to pass right to work laws.  Nevertheless, hypocrisy is the compliment vice pays to virtue.  The Republican Party’s rhetorical support for collective bargaining may have been begrudging for six decades, but it was the public position of the party.

Contrary to popular belief, the Republican presidents of the 1920s—Harding, Coolidge and Hoover—were far to the pro-labor “left” of today’s libertarian Republicans.  The 1920 Republican platform declared:  “We recognize the justice of collective bargaining as a means of promoting good will, establishing closer and more harmonious relations between employers and employees and realizing the true ends of industrial justice.”  In 1924 the Republican platform did not specifically mention collective bargaining but called for federal legislation mandating the eight-hour day, outlawing child labor and legislation to protect mothers:  “There is no success great enough to justify the employment of women in labor under conditions which will impair their natural functions.”  In 1928 the GOP platform read:  “The Party favors freedom in wage contracts, the right of collective bargaining by free and responsible agents of their own choosing, which develops and maintains that purposeful co-operation which gains its chief incentive through voluntary agreement.”  Again in 1932:  “Collective bargaining by responsible representatives of employers and employees of their own choice, without the interference of any one, is recognized and approved.”

In the decades that followed, apart from an emotional anti-New Deal rant in the platform of 1944, GOP platforms typically praised the principle of collective bargaining and sought to promote an image of Republican party neutrality between labor and management, while sometimes criticizing abuses.  The 1956 Republican platform declared that “the process of free collective bargaining has been strengthened by the insistence of this Administration that labor and management settle their differences at the bargaining table without the intervention of the Government. This policy has brought to our country an unprecedented period of labor-management peace and understanding.”

Richard Nixon embodied the mainstream Republican approach to organized labor.  In 1960, when Nixon ran against John F. Kennedy, the party platform reflected the traditional Republican rhetoric:  “America’s growth cannot be compartmentalized. Labor and management cannot prosper without each other. They cannot ignore their mutual public obligation.  Industrial harmony, expressing these mutual interests, can best be achieved in a climate of free collective bargaining, with minimal government intervention except by mediation and conciliation.”

In an ominous harbinger of the future, the Republican platform in 1964, when the libertarian Barry Goldwater captured the party’s nomination, included only hostile references to organized labor:

…This Administration has curtailed, through such agencies as the National Labor Relations Board, the simple, basic right of Americans voluntarily to go into or to go out of business.

We Republicans shall vigorously protect the dynamo of economic growth—free, competitive enterprise—that has made America the envy of the world. For instance, we pledge:

—constant opposition to any form of unregulated monopoly, whether business or labor;

As the language suggests, the Goldwater platform implicitly adopted the extreme view of nineteenth-century capitalists and libertarian ideologues like Ayn Rand and Milton Friedman that trade unions are by their nature monopolistic conspiracies against the public interest, so that individual workers should be left on their own to negotiate the best contracts they can get, no matter how negligible their individual bargaining power.  The result?  Goldwater won only his native state of Arizona and five states in the Deep South where he was supported by segregationists because he opposed the civil rights act of 1964.

Following the Goldwater disaster, the Republican party returned to its traditional nuanced language about collective bargaining between management and labor.  In Nixon’s successful campaigns in 1968 and 1972, no doubt as part of the strategy of winning over socially conservative, unionized Democratic “hardhats” and their families, pro-union rhetoric reached its high-water mark in GOP platforms.

1968:  “Organized labor has contributed greatly to the economic strength of our country and the well-being of its members. The Republican Party vigorously endorses its key role in our national life.”

1972: “ The Nation’s labor unions, comprised of millions of working people, have advanced the well-being not only of their members but also of our entire free-enterprise system. We of the Republican Party reaffirm our strong endorsement of Organized Labor’s key role in our national life.”

When Nixon’s successor Gerald Ford ran for president in 1976, the theme was repeated:  “Free collective bargaining remains the best way to insure that American workers receive a fair price for their labors.”

Even in 1980, when Ronald Reagan, who was both a former union leader and the heir to Goldwater and the standard-bearer of the stealth-libertarian “fusionist” movement, was elected for his first term, the Republican party platform repeated the traditional language:  “We reaffirm our commitment to the fundamental principle of fairness in labor relations, including the legal right of unions to organize workers and to represent them through collective bargaining consistent with state laws and free from unnecessary government involvement.”

A rhetorical shift took place in Republican platforms beginning in 1984, when lip service to the right of collective bargaining begins to be paired regularly with support for right to work laws:

We reaffirm the right of all individuals freely to form, join, or assist labor organizations to bargain collectively, consistent with State laws and free from unnecessary government involvement. We support the fundamental principle of fairness in labor relations. We will continue the Reagan Administration’s “open door” policy toward organized labor and its leaders. We reaffirm our long-standing support for the right of States to enact “Right-to-Work” laws under section 14(b) of the Taft-Hartley Act.

In succeeding platforms, the acknowledgment of the legitimacy of collective bargaining shrinks in relative importance to the emphasis on right to work laws, to the point that they are two parts of a single sentence in the 2008 Republican platform:  “We affirm both the right of individuals to voluntarily participate in labor organizations and bargain collectively and the right of states to enact Right-to-Work laws.”

By 2012 and 2016, the Republican Party platform drops any language praising unions or recognizing the legitimacy of collective bargaining.  The 2012 Platform declares: “Ultimately, we support the enactment of a National Right-to-Work law to promote worker freedom and to promote greater economic liberty.”  In 2016, the platform planks on organized labor appear to have been written by business lobbies with particular grievances:  “Their Project Labor Agreements discriminate against the overwhelming majority of workers by barring them from jobs on taxpayer-funded projects. Their patronizing and controlling approach leaves workers in a form of peonage to the NLRB. We intend to restore fairness and common sense to that agency.”

In 2020, for the first time in history since the foundation of the Republican Party in 1854, there was no Republican party platform.

The platform of the GOP in 2024 is a blank slate.  The party has a choice.  It can return to the balanced view of support for collective bargaining—perhaps in new forms—which shaped the party’s public presentation from Warren G. Harding to Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan.  Or the Republican Party can continue to mimic the Libertarian Party’s hostility to collective bargaining, as it has done since 1992, when it has lost the popular vote in seven of the last eight presidential elections.  Now that the Democrats have become the party favored by most capitalists and managers, while the Republicans have become a predominantly working class party, attracting growing numbers of working-class Hispanics, blacks and Asian-Americans, the rational strategic choice is obvious.

The sections discussing labor from Republican Party Platforms between 1920 and 2016 can be read below:

The Republican Platform of 1920

Industrial Relations

There are two different conceptions of the relations of capital and labor. The one is contractual and emphasizes the diversity of interest of employer and employee. The other is that of co-partnership in a common task.

We recognize the justice of collective bargaining as a means of promoting good will, establishing closer and more harmonious relations between employers and employees and realizing the true ends of industrial justice.

The strike or the lockout, as a means of settling industrial disputes, inflicts such loss and suffering on the community as to justify government initiative to reduce its frequency and limit its consequences. We denied the right to strike against the government; but the rights and interests of all government employees must be safeguarded by impartial laws and tribunals.

In public utilities we favor the establishment of an impartial tribunal to make an investigation of the facts and to render decision to the end that there may be no organized interruption of service necessary to the lives and health and welfare of the people. The decisions of the tribunal to be morally but not legally binding, and an informed public sentiment be relied on to secure their acceptance. The tribunals, however, should refuse to accept jurisdiction except for the purpose of investigation as long as the public service be interrupted. For public utilities we favor the type of tribunal provided for in the Transportation Act of 1920.

In private industries we do not advocate the principle of compulsory arbitration, but we favor impartial commissions and better facilities for voluntary mediation, conciliation and arbitration supplemented by the full publicity which will enlist the influence of an aroused public opinion. The government should take the initiative in inviting the establishment of tribunals or commissions for the purpose of voluntary arbitration and of investigation of disputed issues.

We demand the exclusion from interstate commerce of the products of convict labor.

The Republican Platform of 1924

Labor

The increasing stress of industrial life, the constant and necessary efforts because of world competition to increase production and decrease costs has made it specially incumbent on those in authority to protect labor from undue exactions.

We commend congress for having recognized this possibility in its prompt adoption of the recommendation of President Coolidge for a constitutional amendment authorizing congress to legislate on the subject of child labor, and we urge the prompt consideration of that amendment by the legislatures of the various states.

There is no success great enough to justify the employment of women in labor under conditions which will impair their natural functions.

We favor high standards for wage, working and living conditions among the women employed in industry. We pledge a continuance of the successful efforts of the republican administration to eliminate the seven-day, twelve-hour day industry.

We regard with satisfaction the elimination of the twelve-hour day in the steel industry and the agreement eliminating the seven-day work week of alternate thirteen and eleven hours accomplished through the efforts of Presidents Harding and Coolidge.

We declare our faith in the principle of the eight-hour day.

We pledge a continuation of the work of rehabilitating workers in industry as conducted by the federal board for vocational education, and favor adequate appropriations for this purpose.

We favor a broader and better system of vocational education, a more adequate system of federal free employment agencies with facilities for assisting the movements of seasonal and migratory labor, including farm labor, with ample organization for bringing the man and his job together.

The Republican Platform of 1928

Labor

The Labor record of the Republican Party stands unchallenged. For 52 of the 72 years of our national existence Republican Administrations have prevailed. Today American labor enjoys the highest wage and the highest standard of living throughout the world. Through the saneness and soundness of Republican rule the American workman is paid a “real wage” which allows comfort for himself and his dependents, and an opportunity and leisure for advancement. It is not surprising that the foreign workman, whose greatest ambition still is to achieve a “living wage,” should look with longing towards America as the goal of his desires.

The ability to pay such wages and maintain such a standard comes from the wisdom of the protective legislation which the Republican Party has placed upon the national statute books, the tariff which bars cheap foreign-made goods from the American market and provides continuity of employment for our workmen and fair profits for the manufacturers, the restriction of immigration which not only prevents the glutting of our labor market, but allows to our newer immigrants a greater opportunity to secure a footing in their upward struggle.

The Party favors freedom in wage contracts, the right of collective bargaining by free and responsible agents of their own choosing, which develops and maintains that purposeful co-operation which gains its chief incentive through voluntary agreement.

We believe that injunctions in labor disputes have in some instances been abused and have given rise to a serious question for legislation.

The Republican Party pledges itself to continue its efforts to maintain this present standard of living and high wage scale.

The Republican Platform of 1932

Wages and Work

We believe in the principle of high wages. We favor the principle of the shorter working week and shorter work day with its application to government as well as to private employment, as rapidly and as constructively as conditions will warrant.

We favor legislation designed to stimulate, encourage and assist in home building.

Immigration

The restriction of immigration is a Republican policy. Our party formulated and enacted into law the quota system, which for the first time has made possible an adequate control of foreign immigration.

Rigid examination of applicants in foreign countries prevented the coming of criminals and other undesirable classes, while other provisions of the law have enabled the President to suspend immigration of foreign wage-earners who otherwise, directly or indirectly, would have increased unemployment among native-born and legally resident foreign-born wage-earners in this country. As a result, immigration is now less than at any time during the past one hundred years.

We favor the continuance and strict enforcement of our present laws upon this subject.

Department of Labor

We commend the constructive work of the United States Department of Labor.

Labor

Collective bargaining by responsible representatives of employers and employees of their own choice, without the interference of any one, is recognized and approved.

Legislation, such as laws, prohibiting alien contract labor, peonage labor and the shanghaiing of sailors; the eight-hour law on government contracts and in government employment; provision for railroad safety devices, of methods of conciliation, mediation and arbitration in industrial labor disputes, including the adjustment of railroad disputes; the providing of compensation for injury to government employees (the forerunner of Federal workers’ compensation acts), and other laws to aid and protect labor are of Republican origin, and have had and will continue to have the unswerving support of the party.

Employment

We commend the constructive work of the United States Employment Service in the Department of Labor. This service was enlarged and its activities extended through an appropriation made possible by the President with the cooperation of the Congress. It has done high service for the unemployed in the ranks of civil life and in the ranks of the former soldiers of the World War.

The Republican Platform of 1936

Labor

The welfare of labor rests upon increased production and the prevention of exploitation. We pledge ourselves to:

Protect the right of labor to organize and to bargain collectively through representatives of its own choosing without interference from any source.

Prevent governmental job holders from exercising autocratic powers over labor.

Support the adoption of state laws and interstate compacts to abolish sweatshops and child labor, and to protect women and children with respect to maximum hours, minimum wages and working conditions. We believe that this can be done within the Constitution as it now stands.

The Republican Platform of 1940

Labor Relations

The Republican party has always protected the American worker.

We shall maintain labor’s right of free organization and collective bargaining.

We believe that peace and prosperity at home require harmony, teamwork, and understanding in all relations between worker and employer. When differences arise, they should be settled directly and voluntarily across the table.

Recent disclosures respecting the administration of the National Labor Relations Act require that this Act be amended in fairness to employers and all groups of employees so as to provide true freedom for, and orderliness in self-organization and collective bargaining.

The Republican Party of 1944

Labor

The Republican Party is the historical champion of free labor. Under Republican administrations American manufacturing developed, and American workers attained the most progressive standards of living of any workers in the world. Now the Nation owes those workers a debt of gratitude for their magnificent productive effort in support of the war.

Regardless of the professed friendship of the New Deal for the workingman, the fact remains that under the New Deal American economic life is being destroyed.

The New Deal has usurped selfish and partisan control over the functions of Government agencies where labor relationships are concerned. The continued perversion of the Wagner Act by the New Deal menaces the purposes of the law and threatens to destroy collective bargaining completely and permanently.

The long series of Executive orders and bureaucratic decrees reveal a deliberate purpose to substitute for contractual agreements of employers and employees the political edicts of a New Deal bureaucracy. Labor would thus remain organized only for the convenience of the New Deal in enforcing its orders and inflicting its whims upon labor and industry.

We condemn the conversion of administrative boards, ostensibly set up to settle industrial disputes, into instruments for putting into effect the financial and economic theories of the New Deal.

We condemn the freezing of wage rates at arbitrary levels and the binding of men to their jobs as destructive to the advancement of a free people. We condemn the repeal by Executive order of the laws secured by the Republican party to abolish “contract labor” and peonage. We condemn the gradual but effective creation of a Labor Front as but one of the New Deal’s steps toward a totalitarian state.

We pledge an end to political trickery in the administration of labor laws and the handling of labor disputes; and equal benefits on the basis of equality to all labor in the administration of labor controls and laws, regardless of political affiliation.

The Department of Labor has been emasculated by the New Deal. Labor bureaus, agencies and committees are scattered far and wide, in Washington and throughout the country, and have no semblance of systematic or responsible organization. All governmental labor activities must be placed under the direct authority and responsibility of the Secretary of Labor. Such labor bureaus as are not performing a substantial and definite service in the interest of labor must be abolished.

The Secretary of Labor should be a representative of labor. The office of the Secretary of Labor was created under a Republican President, William Howard Taft. It was intended that a representative of labor should occupy this Cabinet office. The present administration is the first to disregard this intention.

The Republican Party accepts the purposes of the National Labor Relations Act, the Wage and Hour Act, the Social Security Act and all other Federal statutes designed to promote and protect the welfare of American working men and women, and we promise a fair and just administration of these laws.

American well-being is indivisible. Any national program which injures the national economy inevitably injures the wage-earner. The American labor movement and the Republican Party, while continuously striving for the betterment of labor’s status, reject the communistic and New Deal concept that a single group can benefit while the general economy suffers.

The Republican Platform of 1948

Collective bargaining is an obligation as well as a right, applying equally to workers and employers; and the fundamental right to strike is subordinate only to paramount considerations of public health and safety. Government’s chief function in this field is to promote good will, encourage cooperation, and where resort is had to intervention, to be impartial, preventing violence and requiring obedience to all law by all parties involved. We pledge continuing study to improve labor-management legislation in the light of experience and changing conditions.

The Republican Platform of 1952

Labor

The Republican Party believes that regular and adequate income for the employee together with uninterrupted production of goods and services, through the medium of private enterprise, are essential to a sound national economy. This can only be obtained in an era of industrial peace.

With the above in mind, we favor the retention of the Taft-Hartley Act, which guarantees:

To the Working Man:

The right to quit his job at any time.

The right to take part in legal union activities.

The right to remain in his union so long as he pays his dues.

The right to protection against unfair practices by either employer or union officials.

The right to political activity of his own choice and freedom to contribute thereto.

The right to a job without first joining a union.

The right to a secret ballot in any election concerned with his livelihood.

The right to protection from personal financial responsibility in damage cases against his union.

To the Labor Unions:

The right to establish “union shop” contracts by agreement with management.

The right to strike.

The right to free collective bargaining.

The right to protection from rival unions during the life of union contracts.

The right to assurance from employers that they will bargain only with certified unions as a protection against unfair labor practices.

We urge the adoption of such amendments to the Taft-Hartley Act as time and experience show to be desirable, and which further protect the rights of labor, management and the public.

We condemn the President’s seizure of plants and industries to force the settlement of labor disputes by claims of inherent Constitutional powers.

The Republican platform of 1956

Labor

Under the Republican Administration, as our country has prospered, so have its people. This is as it should be, for as President Eisenhower said: “Labor is the United States. The men and women, who with their minds, their hearts and hands, create the wealth that is shared in this country—they are America.”

The Eisenhower Administration has brought to our people the highest employment, the highest wages and the highest standard of living ever enjoyed by any nation. Today there are nearly 67 million men and women at work in the United States, 4 million more than in 1952. Wages have increased substantially over the past 3 1/2 years; but, more important, the American wage earner today can buy more than ever before for himself and his family because his pay check has not been eaten away by rising taxes and soaring prices.

The record of performance of the Republican Administration on behalf of our working men and women goes still further. The Federal minimum wage has been raised for more than 2 million workers. Social Security has been extended to an additional 10 million workers and the benefits raised for 6 1/2 million. The protection of unemployment insurance has been brought to 4 million additional workers. There have been increased workmen’s compensation benefits for longshoremen and harbor workers, increased retirement benefits for railroad employees, and wage increases and improved welfare and pension plans for federal employees.

In addition, the Eisenhower Administration has enforced more vigorously and effectively than ever before, the laws which protect the working standards of our people.

Workers have benefited by the progress which has been made in carrying out the programs and principles set forth in the 1952 Republican platform. All workers have gained and unions have grown in strength and responsibility, and have increased their membership by 2 millions.

Furthermore, the process of free collective bargaining has been strengthened by the insistence of this Administration that labor and management settle their differences at the bargaining table without the intervention of the Government. This policy has brought to our country an unprecedented period of labor-management peace and understanding.

We applaud the effective, unhindered, collective bargaining which brought an early end to the 1956 steel strike, in contrast to the six months’ upheaval, Presidential seizure of the steel industry and ultimate Supreme Court intervention under the last Democrat Administration.

The Eisenhower Administration will continue to fight for dynamic and progressive programs which, among other things, will:

Stimulate improved job safety of our workers, through assistance to the States, employees and employers;

Continue and further perfect its programs of assistance to the millions of workers with special employment problems, such as older workers, handicapped workers, members of minority groups, and migratory workers;

Strengthen and improve the Federal-State Employment Service and improve the effectiveness of the unemployment insurance system;

Protect by law, the assets of employee welfare and benefit plans so that workers who are the beneficiaries can be assured of their rightful benefits;

Assure equal pay for equal work regardless of Sex;

Clarify and strengthen the eight-hour laws for the benefit of workers who are subject to federal wage standards on Federal and Federally-assisted construction, and maintain and continue the vigorous administration of the Federal prevailing minimum wage law for public supply contracts;

Extend the protection of the Federal minimum wage laws to as many more workers as is possible and practicable;

Continue to fight for the elimination of discrimination in employment because of race, creed, color, national origin, ancestry or sex;

Provide assistance to improve the economic conditions of areas faced with persistent and substantial unemployment;

Revise and improve the Taft-Hartley Act so as to protect more effectively the rights of labor unions, management, the individual worker, and the public. The protection of the right of workers to organize into unions and to bargain collectively is the firm and permanent policy of the Eisenhower Administration. In 1954, 1955 and again in 1956, President Eisenhower recommended constructive amendments to this Act. The Democrats in Congress have consistently blocked these needed changes by parliamentary maneuvers. The Republican Party pledges itself to overhaul and improve the Taft-Hartley Act along the lines of these recommendations.

The Republican Platform of 1960

Labor

America’s growth cannot be compartmentalized. Labor and management cannot prosper without each other. They cannot ignore their mutual public obligation.

Industrial harmony, expressing these mutual interests, can best be achieved in a climate of free collective bargaining, with minimal government intervention except by mediation and conciliation.

Even in dealing with emergency situations imperiling the national safety, ways of solution must be found to enhance and not impede the processes of free collective bargaining—carefully considered ways that are in keeping with the policies of national labor relations legislation and with the need to strengthen the hand of the President in dealing with such emergencies.

In the same spirit, Republican leadership will continue to encourage discussions, away from the bargaining table, between labor and management to consider the mutual interest of all Americans in maintaining industrial peace.

Republican policy firmly supports the right of employers and unions freely to enter into agreements providing for the union shop and other forms of union security as authorized by the Labor-Management Relations Act of 1947 (the Taft-Hartley Act ).

Republican-sponsored legislation has supported the right of union members to full participation in the affairs of their union and their right to freedom from racketeering and gangster interference whether by labor or management in labor-management relations.

Republican action has given to millions of American working men and women new or expanded protection and benefits, such as: Increased federal minimum wage;

Extended coverage of unemployment insurance and the payment of additional temporary benefits provided in 1958-59;

Improvement of veterans’ re-employment rights;

Extension of federal workman’s compensation coverage and increase of benefits;

Legislative assurance of safety standards for longshore and harbor workers and for the transportation of migratory workers;

An increase of railroad workers’ retirement and disability benefits.

Seven past years of accomplishments, however, are but a base to build upon in fostering, promoting and improving the welfare of America’s working men and women, both organized and unorganized. We pledge, therefore, action on these constructive lines:

Diligent administration of the amended Labor-Management Relations Act of 1947 (Taft-Hartley Act) and the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959 (Landrum-Griffin Act) with recommendations for improvements which experience shows are needed to make them more effective or remove any inequities.

Correction of defects in the Welfare and Pension Plans Disclosure Act to protect employees’ and beneficiaries’ interests.

Upward revision in amount and extended coverage of the minimum wage to several million more workers.

Strengthening the unemployment insurance system and extension of its benefits.

Improvement of the eight-hour laws relating to hours and overtime compensation on federal and federally-assisted construction, and continued vigorous enforcement and improvement of minimum wage laws for federal supply and construction contracts.

Continued improvement of manpower skills and training to meet a new era of challenges, including action programs to aid older workers, women, youth, and the physically handicapped.

Encouragement of training programs by labor, industry and government to aid in finding new jobs for persons dislocated by automation or other economic changes.

Improvement of job opportunities and working conditions of migratory farm workers.

Assurance of equal pay for equal work regardless of sex; encouragement of programs to insure on-the-job safety, and encouragement of the States to improve their labor standards legislation, and to improve veterans’ employment rights and benefits.

Encouragement abroad of free democratic institutions, higher living standards and higher wages through such agencies as the International Labor Organization, and cooperation with the free trade union movement in strengthening free labor throughout the world.

The Republican Party of 1964

Retarding Enterprises

This Administration has violently thrust Federal power into the free market in such areas as steel prices, thus establishing precedents which in future years could critically wound free enterprise in the United States.

…This Administration has curtailed, through such agencies as the National Labor Relations Board, the simple, basic right of Americans voluntarily to go into or to go out of business.

Faith in the Individual

  1. We Republicans shall first rely on the individual’s right and capacity to advance his own economic well-being, to control the fruits of his efforts and to plan his own and his family’s future; and, where government is rightly involved, we shall assist the individual in surmounting urgent problems beyond his own power and responsibility to control. For instance, we pledge:

—adoption and implementation of a fair and adequate program for providing necessary supplemental farm labor for producing and harvesting agricultural commodities…

Faith in the Competitive System

…2. We Republicans shall vigorously protect the dynamo of economic growth—free, competitive enterprise—that has made America the envy of the world. For instance, we pledge:

—constant opposition to any form of unregulated monopoly, whether business or labor;

The Republican Platform of 1968

Labor

Organized labor has contributed greatly to the economic strength of our country and the well-being of its members. The Republican Party vigorously endorses its key role in our national life.

We support an equitable minimum wage for American workers—one providing fair wages without unduly increasing unemployment among those on the lowest rung of the economic ladder—and will improve the Fair Labor Standards Act, with its important protections for employees.

The forty-hour week adopted 30 years ago needs re-examination to determine whether or not a shorter work week, without loss of wages, would produce more jobs, increase productivity and stabilize prices.

We strongly believe that the protection of individual liberty is the cornerstone of sound labor policy. Today, basic rights of some workers, guaranteed by law, are inadequately guarded against abuse. We will assure these rights through vigorous enforcement of present laws, including the Taft-Hartley Act and the Landrum-Griffin Act, and the addition of new protections where needed. We will be vigilant to prevent any administrative agency entrusted with labor-law enforcement from defying the letter and spirit of these laws.

Healthy private enterprise demands responsibility—by government, management and labor—to avoid the imposition of excessive costs or prices and to share with the consumer the benefits of increased productivity. It also demands responsibility in free collective bargaining, not only by labor and management, but also by those in government concerned with these sensitive relationships.

We will bar government-coerced strike settlements that cynically disregard the public interest and accelerate inflation. We will again reduce government intervention in labor-management disputes to a minimum, keep government participation in channels defined by the Congress, and prevent back-door intervention in the administration of labor laws.

Repeated Administration promises to recommend legislation dealing with crippling economic strikes have never been honored. Instead, settlements forced or influenced by government and overriding the interests of the parties and the public have shattered the Administration’s own wage and price guidelines and contributed to inflation.

Effective methods for dealing with labor disputes involving the national interest must be developed. Permanent, long-range solutions of the problems of national emergency disputes, public employee strikes and crippling work stoppages are imperative. These solutions cannot be wisely formulated in the heat of emergency. We pledge an intensive effort to develop practical, acceptable solutions that conform fully to the public interest.

The Republican Platform of 1972

Working Men and Women

The skill, industry and productivity of American workers are the driving force of our free economy. The Nation’s labor unions, comprised of millions of working people, have advanced the well-being not only of their members but also of our entire free-enterprise system. We of the Republican Party reaffirm our strong endorsement of Organized Labor’s key role in our national life.

We salute the statesmanship of the labor union movement. Time and time again, at crucial moments, it has voiced its outspoken support for a firm and effective foreign policy and for keeping the Armed Forces of the United States modern and strong.

The American labor movement and the Republican Party have always worked against the spread of totalitarian forms of government. Together we can continue to preserve in America the best system of government ever devised for human happiness and fulfillment.

We are for the right of American workers and their families to enjoy and to retain to the greatest possible extent the rewards of their own labor.

We regard collective bargaining as the cornerstone of the Nation’s labor relations policy. The government’s role is not to encroach upon this process but rather to aid the differing parties to make collective bargaining more effective both for themselves and for the public. In furtherance of that concept, we will continue to develop procedures whereby the imagination, ingenuity and knowledge of labor and management can more effectively seek solutions for such problems as structural adjustment and productivity.

In the construction industry, for example, we will build on a new joint effort between government and all parts of the industry to solve such problems as seasonality and varying peaks of demand to ensure a stable growth in the number of skilled craftsmen.

We call upon management and labor to devote their best efforts to finding better ways to conduct labor-management relations so the good of all the people can be advanced without strikes or lockouts.

We will continue to search for realistic and fair solutions to emergency labor disputes, guided by two basic principles; first, that the health and safety of the people of the United States should always be paramount; and second, that collective bargaining should be kept as free as possible from government interference.

For mine health and safety, we have implemented the most comprehensive legislation in the Nation’s history, resulting in a major reduction in mine-related accidents. We pledge continued advancement of the health and safety of workers.

We will continue to press for improved pension vesting and other statutory protections to assure that Americans will not lose their hard-earned retirement income.

We pledge further modernization of the Federal Civil Service System, including emphasis on executive development. We rededicate ourselves to promotion on merit, equal opportunity, and the setting of clear incentives for higher productivity. We will give continuing close attention to the evolving labor-management relationship in the Federal service.

We pledge realistic programs of education and training so that all Americans able to do so can make their own way, on their own ability, receiving an equal and fair chance to advance themselves. We flatly oppose the notion that the hard-earned tax dollars of American workers should be used to support those who can work but choose not to, and who believe that the world owes them a living free from any responsibility or care.

We are proud of our many other solid achievements on behalf of America’s working people—for example:

Nearly five million additional workers brought under the coverage of the unemployment insurance system, and eligibility deadlines twice extended;

Funding for more than 166,000 jobs under the Emergency Employment Act;

Expansion of vocational education and manpower training programs;

Use of the long-neglected Trade Expansion Act to help workers who lose their jobs because of imports. We strongly favor vigorous competition by American business in the world market but in ways that do not displace American jobs;

Negotiation of long-needed limitations on imports of man-made fibers, textiles and other products, thus protecting American jobs.

We share the desire of all Americans for continued prosperity in peacetime. We will work closely with labor and management toward our mutual goal of assuring a job for every man and woman seeking the dignity of work.

The Republican Platform of 1976

Working Americans

Free collective bargaining remains the best way to insure that American workers receive a fair price for their labors.

The special problems of collective bargaining in state and local government should be addressed at those levels. Washington should not impose its standards on local governments. While we oppose strikes by public employees, we recognize that states have the right to permit them if they choose.

Union membership as a condition of employment has been regulated by state law under Section 14(b) of the Taft-Hartley Act. This basic right should continue to be determined by the states. We oppose strikes by federal employees, the unionization of our military forces and the legalization of common-situs picketing.

Employees of the federal government should not engage in partisan politics. The Civil Service System must remain non-partisan and non-political. The Hatch Act now protects federal employees; we insist that it be uniformly administered.

Among the rights that are the entitlement of every American worker is the right to join a union—large, small or independent; the right to be protected against racial discrimination and misuse of dues; the right to union elections that are fair and democratic; and the right to be assured of ultimately receiving his or her promised pension benefits.

Safe and healthful working conditions are goals of utmost importance. We should expect the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to help employers, particularly in small businesses, comply with the law, and we will support legislation providing on-site consultation.

There should be considerable concern over the presence of several million illegal aliens in the country who fill jobs that otherwise would be available to American workers. We support increased efforts to deal more effectively with this problem and favor legislation prohibiting employers from knowingly hiring illegal aliens. The Democrat leaders in Congress have systematically killed every attempt to debate this legislation in recent years.

Increased part-time and flexible-hour work should be encouraged wherever feasible. In keeping with our belief in family life, we want to expand more opportunities for men and women to combine family responsibilities and employment.

The Republican Platform of 1980

Fairness to the worker

The Republican Party is committed to full employment without inflation. We will seek to provide more jobs, increase the standard of living, and ensure equitable treatment on the job for all American workers by stimulating economic growth.

We reaffirm our commitment to the fundamental principle of fairness in labor relations, including the legal right of unions to organize workers and to represent them through collective bargaining consistent with state laws and free from unnecessary government involvement. We applaud the mutual efforts of labor and management to improve the quality of work life.

Wage demands today often represent the attempt of working men and women to catch up with government-caused inflation and high tax rates. With the blessing of the Democrats’ majority in Congress, the Council on Wage and Price Stability has put a de facto ceiling of seven to eight and one-half percent on workers’ wages, while the Administration devalues their paychecks at a rate of 13 to 15 percent. The government, not the worker, is the principal cause of inflation.

We recognize the need for governmental oversight of the health and safety of the workplace, without interfering in the economic well-being of employers or the job security of workers.

The Republican Party reaffirms its long-standing support for the right of states to enact “Right-to-Work” laws under section 14(b) of the Taft-Hartley Act.

The political freedom of every worker must be protected. Therefore, the Republican Party strongly supports protections against the practice of using compulsory dues and fees for partisan political purposes…

Agricultural Labor

Comprehensive labor legislation, which will be fair to American workers and encourage better relations with our neighbors in Mexico and Canada with whom we wish to establish a working North American Accord, is an essential endeavor. We deplore disruptive work stoppages which interrupt the supply of food to consumers.

The Republican Platform of 1984

We reaffirm the right of all individuals freely to form, join, or assist labor organizations to bargain collectively, consistent with State laws and free from unnecessary government involvement. We support the fundamental principle of fairness in labor relations. We will continue the Reagan Administration’s “open door” policy toward organized labor and its leaders. We reaffirm our long-standing support for the right of States to enact “Right-to-Work” laws under section 14(b) of the Taft-Hartley Act.

The political freedom of every worker must be protected. Therefore, we strongly oppose the practice of using compulsory dues and fees for partisan political purposes. Also, the protection of all workers must be secured. Therefore, no worker should be coerced by violence or intimidation by any party to a labor dispute.

The Republican Platform of 1988

The Rights of Workers

We affirm the right of all freely to form, join or assist labor organizations to bargain collectively, consistent with State laws. Labor relations must be based on fairness and mutual respect. We renew our long-standing support for the right of States to enact “Right-to-Work” laws. To protect the political rights of every worker, we oppose the use of compulsory dues or fees for partisan purposes. Workers should not have to pay for political activity they oppose, and no worker should be coerced by violence or intimidation by any party to a labor dispute.

The Republican Party supports legislation to mend the Hobbs Act, so that union officials, like all other Americans, are once again subject to the law’s prohibition against extortion and violence in labor disputes.

We also support amendments to the National Labor Relations Act to provide greater protection from labor violence for workers who choose to work during strikes.

The Republican Platform of 1992

We affirm the right of individuals to form, join, or assist labor organizations to bargain collectively, consistent with State laws. We support the right of States to enact Right-to-Work laws.

A Republican Congress will amend the Hobbs Act, so that union officials will not be exempt from the law’ s prohibition against extortion and violence. We call for greater legal protection from violence for workers who stay on the job during strikes.

The Republican Platform of 1996

Restraining the size and spending of government is only part of the job. We must transform official policies and attitudes toward productive Americans. Many of our labor laws and job training programs are out of date and out of touch with the needs of today’s workers. Both the Davis-Bacon Act and the Service Contract Act, for example, have come to restrict opportunity, increase costs, and inhibit innovation.

Congressional Republicans have already launched a fight against the union bosses’ ban on flex-time and comp-time in private industry. Those innovations are especially important to families with children. Government has no business forbidding America’s workers to arrange their schedules to suit the needs of their own families.

In the same spirit, we will enact the TEAM Act to empower employers and employees to act as a team, rather than as adversaries, to advance their common interests. (It is opposed only by those who profit from labor conflict, for whom Bill Clinton has vetoed the bill.) Another way to replace conflict with concerted action is to transform OSHA from an adversarial agency into a pioneering advocate of safer productivity. We will mesh its activities with the work of councils formed under the TEAM Act to advance worker protection from the ground up.

The Republican Platform of 2000

We affirm the right of individuals to voluntarily participate in labor organizations and to bargain collectively. We therefore support the right of states to enact Right-to-Work laws. No one should be forced to contribute to a campaign or a candidate, so we will vigorously implement the Supreme Court’s Beck decision to stop the involuntary use of union dues for political purposes. We will revoke the illegal executive order excluding millions of workers from federal contracts, and safeguard the unemployment compensation system against the diversion of its funds for political purposes.

The Republican Platform of 2004

Protecting the Rights of Workers

We affirm the time-honored right of individuals to voluntarily participate in labor organizations and to bargain collectively. We also believe that no American should be coerced into an association they do not wish to join. And no one should be kept out of a job for which they are qualified simply because they choose to remain independent of labor unions. We therefore support the right of states to enact Right-to-Work laws.

Republicans respect the enormous sacrifices and commitment of the workers, including building tradesmen, who responded to the attacks of September 11th. Thanks to their skill, courage, and patriotism, the very dangerous work at the World Trade Center and Pentagon was done remarkably quickly and without a single fatality. We will always remember and honor the efforts of the rescue and recovery workers who dedicated countless hours to helping America recover.

All American workers deserve workplaces that are safe, healthy, and fair. The President and Republican Congress have supported efforts to improve workplace safety without burdening businesses with costly and unnecessary regulations. And these efforts are showing results – overall workplace fatalities and injuries are at record low levels.

American workers deserve fair wages for hours spent working overtime. We are proud of the fact that 1.3 million additional workers now have guaranteed overtime protections as a result of Republican efforts to modernize labor laws left untouched since 1949. For the first time ever, the regulations explicitly guarantee overtime protection to blue collar workers, police, firefighters, EMTs, factory workers, construction workers, and licensed practical nurses, among others. With clearly defined overtime rules that recognize the realities of the modern workforce, employees and employers will have a greater understanding of their rights and responsibilities.

Workers who pay dues through their workplace deserve to know how their dues are being used – especially when the money is being used to support political activity. Republicans have enhanced financial disclosure requirements for political campaigns, corporations, and pension funds in order to bring about more transparency and accountability in the political system. And the Bush Administration improved union financial disclosure forms to offer union members more information about how their dues money is spent. We encourage management and unions to find common ground thereby ensuring economic viability for both.

Men and women who retire after decades spent in the workforce are entitled to the pensions they and their employers have contributed to throughout their careers. As part of the 2001 economic growth and tax relief bill, workers’ pension payments are now calculated on the basis of their best three years of earnings rather than their last three. This protects workers whose earnings decline with their age. In addition, criminal prosecutions against employers and plan trustees who abuse pension and health plans have increased by more than 50 percent since 2001. More than $3 billion has been secured through court judgments, settlements, and fines covering 150 million workers and their dependents by holding those who manage benefit plans accountable for their legal obligations to protect plan participants. Thanks to Republican efforts to enforce the law, the word is getting out that benefits managers should invest and manage employees’ retirement funds as carefully as they would handle their own.

Republicans recognize the historical federal health care promise made to coal industry retirees. The Party will seek to ensure that health care needs of “orphan retirees” in the coal industry will be covered and will seek to ensure the continuation of those benefits.

The Republican platform of 2008

Protecting Union Workers

We affirm both the right of individuals to voluntarily participate in labor organizations and bargain collectively and the right of states to enact Right-to- Work laws. But the nation’s labor laws, to a large extent formed out of conflicts several generations ago, should be modernized to make it easier for employers and employees to plan, execute, and profit together. To protect workers from misuse of their funds, we will conscientiously enforce federal law requiring financial reporting and transparency by labor unions. We advocate paycheck protection laws to guard the integrity of the political process and the security of workers’ earnings.

Stopping the Assault on the Secret Ballot

The recent attempt by congressional Democrats to deny workers a secret ballot in union referenda is an assault, not only against a fundamental principle of labor law, but even more against the dignity and honor of the American work force. We oppose “card check” legislation, which deprives workers of their privacy and their right to vote, because it exposes workers to intimidation by union organizers.

The Republican Platform of 2012

Freedom in the Workplace

The current Administration has chosen a different path with regard to labor, clinging to antiquated notions of confrontation and concentrating power in the Washington offices of union elites. It has strongly supported the anti-business card check legislation to deny workers a secret ballot in union organizing campaigns and, through the use of Project Labor Agreements, barred 80 percent of the construction workforce from competing for jobs in many stimulus projects. The current Administration has turned the National Labor Relations Board into a partisan advocate for Big Labor, using threats and coercion outside the law to attack businesses and, through “snap elections” and “micro unions,” limit the rights of workers and employers alike.

We will restore the rule of law to labor law by blocking “card check,” enacting the Secret Ballot Protection Act, enforcing the Hobbs Act against labor violence, and passing the Raise Act to allow all workers to receive well-earned raises without the approval of their union representative. We demand an end to the Project Labor Agreements; and we call for repeal of the Davis-Bacon Act, which costs the taxpayers billions of dollars annually in artificially high wages on government projects. We support the right of States to enact Right-to-Work laws and encourage them to do so to promote greater economic liberty. Ultimately, we support the enactment of a National Right-to-Work law to promote worker freedom and to promote greater economic liberty. We will aggressively enforce the recent decision by the Supreme Court barring the use of union dues for political purposes without the consent of the worker.

We salute the Republican Governors and State legislators who have saved their States from fiscal disaster by reforming their laws governing public employee unions. We urge elected officials across the country to follow their lead in order to avoid State and local defaults on their obligations and the collapse of services to the public. To safeguard the free choice of public employees, no government at any level should act as the dues collector for unions. A Republican President will protect the rights of conscience of public employees by proposing legislation to bar mandatory dues for political purposes.

The Republican Platform of 2016

Workplace Freedom for a 21st Century Workforce

The greatest asset of the American economy is the hard-working American. That is why our first priority is getting people back to work by fostering the kind of growth that creates jobs. That overarching goal unites all the sections of this platform. It runs through our commitments on education and workforce development. It underlies our approach to welfare reform, regulatory reform, and our determination to advance the kind of trade agreements that multiply opportunities for workers here at home. It also impels us to challenge the anachronistic labor laws that limit workers’ freedom and lock them into the workplace rules of their great-grandfathers.

Instead of facilitating change, the current Administration and its agents at the National Labor Relations Board are determined to reverse it. They are attacking the franchise model of business development, which is essential to the flexibility and creativity of the new economy. They are wielding provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act from the 1930s, designed to fit a manufacturing workplace, to deny flexibility to both employers and employees. They have repealed union transparency rules that allowed members to discover what was being done with their dues. They have outlawed alternatives to unions even when they were favored by the workers.

Their Project Labor Agreements discriminate against the overwhelming majority of workers by barring them from jobs on taxpayer-funded projects. Their patronizing and controlling approach leaves workers in a form of peonage to the NLRB. We intend to restore fairness and common sense to that agency.

Technology has already created jobs that did not exist fifteen years ago, and today’s workers need flexibility and family-friendly options to make the most of them, especially portability in pension plans and health insurance.

We intend to encourage those trends by bringing labor law into the 21st century. It should encourage cooperation between management and workers, not conflict. All workers, including union members, must be free to accept raises and rewards without veto power from union officials. All unionized workers should be able to find out what is going on in their union trust funds and in their executive compensation. We support the right of states to enact Right-to-Work laws and call for a national law to protect the economic liberty of the modern workforce.

All Americans deserve the opportunity to pursue their American dream free from discrimination. Clear nondiscrimination policies ensure all employees have the chance to succeed based solely on their merits. These policies are vital to creating an inclusive, innovative, and competitive workforce.

Republicans believe that the employer-employee relationship of the future will be built upon employee empowerment and workplace flexibility. We therefore endorse employee stock ownership plans that enable workers to become capitalists, expand the realm of private property, and energize a free enterprise economy.

Minimum wage is an issue that should be handled at the state and local level.

[No Republican platform in 2020]

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Michael Lind

Michael Lind is a professor of practice at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin and the author of more than a dozen books, most recently The New Class War.