Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Taft-Hartley Definition:

The name of an American federal labor law which sought to equalize legal responsibilities of labor organizations and employers; i.e., balance the Wagner Act, which, it was felt, may have gone to far in protecting union rights.

Related Terms: Wagner Act

Passed in 1947.

Following American legal tradition, the statute had both a formal name, the Labor-Management Relations Act (29 USC), and a more-common name after the name of the sponsoring Republican politicians, Senator Robert A. Taft (1889 – 1953) and Representative Fred A. Hartley (1902 - 1969).

Robert Taft was the son of President and Chief Justice William Howard Taft.

Where the Wagner Act had was aimed primarily at employer behavior, the Taft-Hartley was aimed at unions and sought to restrain their activities under certain circumstances, by detailing union rights and duties.

For example, the Taft-Hartley Act exempted supervisors from it’s provisions, allowed employees to decline participation in union activities and permitted union decertification petitions.

According to the Encyclopedia of American Law, the main features of the Taft-Hartley Act was to prohibit closed-shops and include the activities of unions within the supervisory jurisdiction of the National Labor Relations Board and:

"... a shift away from a federal policy encouraging unionization, which has been embodied in the Wagner Act, to a more neutral stance...."


  • Lehman, J. and Phelps, S., eds., West's Encyclopedia of American Law, 2nd Ed., Volume 9 (Farmington Hills, Michigan: Thomson Gale, 2004) page 431.

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