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Secretary of the Senate Carl Loeffler signing the Taft-Hartley bill, photograph, June 24, 1947

Significant congressional support for the Taft-Hartley bill led to an override of the president’s veto. The bill became law without the president’s signature when certified by the Secretary of the Senate. The National Labor Relations (Taft-Hartley) Act went further than previous legislation in restricting union activities. Among other provisions, it allowed the president to prohibit strikes that affect national security.

Pictured left to right: Senator Robert A. Taft of Ohio, Secretary of the Senate Carl Loeffler, and Representative Fred A. Hartley Jr. of New Jersey

Bettmann/Getty Images

Secretary of the Senate Carl Loeffler signing the Taft-Hartley bill, photograph, June 24, 1947

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.