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American Communications Association v. Douds

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Significance: At the height of the Cold War, the Supreme Court upheld the portions of the Taft-Hartley Act (1947) that required labor union leaders to sign an affidavit affirming that they were not presently members of the Communist Party.


The Communications union, which had a record of some Communist Party infiltration, charged that the registration provisions of the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947 violated the freedoms provided by the First Amendment. Speaking for a 5-1 majority, Chief Justice Fred M. Vinson interpreted the law as an attempt to prevent disruptive strikes in interstate commerce, a legitimate interest of Congress. Using an ad hoc balancing approach, Vinson made a distinction between freedom of speech, protected by the First Amendment, and political association, a form of action that deserved less protection than the communication of ideas. Douds may be contrasted with United States v. Brown (1965), in which the Supreme Court struck down a more restrictive law that prohibited people from serving as labor leaders if they had been affiliated with the Communist Party during the previous five years.