Tags: Unions | scalia | labor department | landrum-griffin | kennedy

Honoring Historic Landrum-Griffin Act 60 Years Later

U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Rick Griffin
U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Rick Griffin pays tribute to his father, the late Sen. Robert P. Griffin, R-Mich. (in portrait above him), for his co-sponsorship of the historic Landrum-Griffin Act, as Acting Secretary of Labor Patrick Pizzella listens.

Friday, 27 September 2019 10:46 AM Current | Bio | Archive

"And this just in — the nomination of Eugene Scalia to be secretary of labor has just been confirmed by the Senate," Acting Secretary of Labor Patrick Pizzella told a packed audience at his department's auditorium on Thursday afternoon.

The audience broke out in cheers.

It was a poignant and even dramatic moment for Pizzella (who will revert to his previous position as deputy secretary once Scalia is sworn in). At the time he announced the news, Pizzella was presiding over an historic celebration of two of the fathers of the Landrum-Griffin Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959 — one of the three major pieces of labor legislation enacted in the 20th Century. 

Now 60 years old, Landrum Griffin safeguards transparency in unions through reporting and disclosure requirements and integrity in union elections.

Inducted into the Department of Labor's Hall of Honor were Sen. Robert P. Griffin, R.-Mich., who co-sponsored the legislation, and Howard Jenkins Jr., who helped draft Landrum-Griffin while working for the Office of the Solicitor at the Labor Department and who went on to become the first black member of the National Labor Relations Board.

Among those attending the ceremony were former Secretary of Energy and Sen. Spence Abraham, R.-Mich., Teamster Union General Counsel Bradley Raymond, and Americans for Tax Reform president Grover Norquist.

Following the Senate's Kefauver Committee investigating organized crime in the early 1950s, Office of Labor Management Standards director Arthur Rosenfeld said it was only natural that a probe of corruption in organized labor come next.

This, he said, was overseen by the Special Select Committee on Improper Activities by Labor and Management — commonly called the "McClellan Committee" after its chairman, Sen. John McClellan, D.-Ark.

Among the senators on the committee were Democrats Sam Ervin of North Carolina and John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts and Republicans Barry Goldwater of Arizona and Carl Curtis of Nebraska. The committee's chief counsel was Robert F. Kennedy.

After testimony by 1,526 witnesses during 270 days of hearings and 20,000 pages of transcripts, the McClellan Committee concluded that "there was a whole range of corruption at the highest level of organized labor," said Rosenfeld.

Enter then-Rep. Griffin, a decorated World War II veteran who had unseated a fellow Republican in his first House race in 1956. Working with a Democratic colleague on the House Education and Labor Committee, Democrat Phil Landrum of Georgia, Griffin helped sculpt a bill that would ensure the secret ballot in union elections and provided for financial reports by unions to the secretary of labor (with stiff penalties for willful violations).

Also working on the language of the bill was Howard Jenkins Jr., the first African-American to pass the Colorado bar exam and who later became an attorney at the Office of the Solicitor under Secretary of Labor James Mitchell.

The measure was passed resoundingly in both the House and Senate and was signed into law by President Eisenhower on September 15, 1959.

The children of both Bob Griffin and Howard Jenkins helped bring their fathers to life on this special day. U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Rick Griffin noted how his father went on to serve in the U.S. Senate, was the key lawmaker in demolishing Lyndon Johnson's nomination of Supreme Court Justice Abe Fortas to be chief justice in 1968 (and revealed financial dealings of Fortas that forced him to leave the court a year later), was Gerald Ford's convention manager in his razor-thin renomination over Ronald Reagan in 1976, served as Senate GOP Whip, and later served on the Michigan Supreme Court.

"And in everything he did, dad always tried to do the right thing," said Griffin.

Lawrence Jenkins spoke of his father being sworn into the NLRB on the day after the March on Washington for civil rights in 1963 and how the elder Jenkins never indicated whether he voted for Democrats or Republicans.

Recalling how people suggested his father recuse himself from any NLRB cases involving blacks, the younger Jenkins said, "Dad said he'd consider it if the other Board members disqualify themselves from any cases involving whites. That pretty much ended the matter."

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.

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Now 60 years old, the Landrum-Griffin Act safeguards transparency in unions through reporting and disclosure requirements and integrity in union elections.
scalia, labor department, landrum-griffin, kennedy
Friday, 27 September 2019 10:46 AM
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