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Draft opinion, Youngstown Sheet and Tube, Co. v. Sawyer, May 22, 1952

Owners of steel companies obtained a court injunction on federal seizure of their plants. An appeal of the injunction brought the matter to the Supreme Court. The court decided for the companies, finding that the president did not have legislative authority for his action. In doing so, it emphasized the primacy of the Constitution’s separation of powers.

Robert H. Jackson Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress

Draft opinion, Youngstown Sheet and Tube, Co. v. Sawyer, May 22, 1952 Draft opinion, Youngstown Sheet and Tube, Co. v. Sawyer, May 22, 1952

Defining Presidential Power

As the nation recovered from World War II, labor strikes abounded. Believing labor unrest could destabilize the economy, Congress passed the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947, which empowered the president to prevent strikes that affected national security. President Harry S. Truman eschewed the act when a steelworkers’ union threatened to strike during the Korean War. Claiming executive emergency powers, Truman seized the steel mills, but the Supreme Court ruled that he exceeded presidential powers conferred by Congress and the Constitution.

During the Korean War, the judicial and legislative branches checked executive power when the Supreme Court relied on the Taft-Hartley Labor Relations Act to restrain President Harry S. Truman’s seizure of steel mills.