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Three Nixon White House Tape Conversations Relating to Unions

The National Archives has been putting Nixon-era White House tapes online. The tapes involve various subjects as staff and others enter the Oval Office or other locations. Audio quality varies. Some long pauses have been edited out. In the past, tapes released have tended to focus on Watergate or major issues of the day. These three selected conversations came at different times of the day on July 21, 1972 and appear on two tapes. They show the much greater importance of organized labor in politics and the economy in that period than at the present time. At the time, wage-price controls had been imposed for anti-inflation reasons about 11 months earlier. The Phase II Pay Board -- the wage controls agency - originally had 5 labor, 5 business, and 5 neutral representatives. But the AFL-CIO unions walked out leaving only the Teamsters. So the Board was reconfigured with 1 union representative, 1 business representative, and 5 neutrals. By the time these taped conversations took place, the 1972 presidential election was looming and the Teamsters remained supportive of Nixon. The AFL-CIO did not endorse the Democratic candidate George McGovern, an unusual step, although individual AFL-CIO unions did endorse him. The first conversation reflects that development. There are complaints in the conversation about how the press is covering the union story as well as good economic news on inflation and real growth that has just been released and its election implications. The second and third conversations relate to the White House dropping of the Crippling Strikes Prevention Act, a bill that would have provided the President with a "choice of procedures" approach to strikes in the transportation industry (rail, trucking, airlines, maritime and longshore). Absent the bill, the President could only impose "cooling off periods" under existing legislation (the Taft-Hartley and Railway Labor Acts). Senator Packwood (Republican of Oregon) was carrying the strikes bill for the White House under which the President could extend the cooling off periods, compel partial operation of struck industries for national health and safety reasons, or impose compulsory final-offer arbitration. However, the Teamsters were strongly against the bill, particularly the arbitration element, and other unions were also displeased with it. The White House had just dropped its support for the bill, leaving Packwood feeling abandoned and publicly complaining about it. In the conversations, it appears that the official White House line was that the bill was being dropped because there were not enough votes to pass it. Packwood believed otherwise and it is not clear from the conversations that the White House did actually believe some version of the bill could not be passed. This video/audio is being uploaded as background to the Mitchell's Musings blog at for August 20, 2012.
Length: 14:56


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