In 1967, he helped draft the New York state civil service law which legalized collective bargaining in that state but which also banned strikes by public employees—legislation widely known today as the Taylor Law.
In 1921, Taylor graduated with a bachelor's degree in economics from the Wharton School. His senior thesis was on the history and overdevelopment of the hosiery industry in Pennsylvania. He became a professor in the department of business administration at Albright College, and obtained his doctorate in economics from the Wharton School in 1929.
Teaching was Taylor's first love throughout his life. He often said that he "had chalk in his veins" and hated to leave the classroom. He was recognized as a dynamic speaker and excellent lecturer, and remained a highly sought-after public speaker even at the time of his death.
Taylor was named a full professor in 1944, and was eventually named to the Gaylord P. and Mary Louise Harnwell Professor of Industry. Upon his retirement from active teaching in 1964, the University of Pennsylvania named the endowed chair after him. He continued to lecture and speak to students on campus until his death in 1972.
Taylor received national acclaim for helping mediate an end to a strike at Apex Hosiery in Philadelphia in 1932. Under the terms of the 1931 collective bargaining agreement between the Full Fashioned Hosiery Manufacturers of America and the American Federation of Hosiery Workers, he was appointed "impartial chairman" for the independent arbitration committee established by the contract. The position became a model for similar collective bargaining clauses nationwide. During his 10 years as impartial chairman, Taylor established a national minimum wage in the hosiery industry.
In 1935, after a period of service to the federal government, Taylor become impartial chairman for a labor arbitration committee established by the Men's Clothing Manufacturers' Association and the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America. He held that position until 1961.
By 1940, Taylor had settled roughly 1,400 labor disputes without a strike.
Taylor entered federal service again in 1951. He left it in 1952, and although he continued to teach at the Wharton School he also was the official arbitrator of internal Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) jurisdictional disputes. He served in this capacity for three years, and his work became a model for handling inter-union disputes after the American Federation of Labor (AFL) and CIO merged in 1955.
During his lifetime, Taylor was credited with coining a number of common collective bargaining terms, including "tandem," "escalator clause," "productivity improvement," "interplant inequity," and "ability to pay."
Taylor was a strong advocate of private sector collective bargaining, but believed that governments had the right to significantly restrict collective bargaining and the right to strike in the public sector. He was a strong advocate of the National Labor Relations Act, and vehemently condemned the Taft-Hartley Act as poor public policy and an improper restriction on the right to strike. In many important labor disputes, however, Taylor often took positions opposed to those advocated by labor unions because Taylor believed strikes should serve the public and not a private good. As he once noted:
President Roosevelt appointed Taylor vice chairman of the National War Labor Board in 1942. He became the board's chairman in 1945. In July 1942, Taylor wrote the wage decision popularly known as the "Little Steel formula" which gave workers employed by smaller steel companies only modest pay increases for the duration of the war. The board applied the "Little Steel formula" to nearly every American industry during World War II. The decision was severely criticized by organized labor, but Taylor considered it to be one of the most significant, well-written, and well-founded policy decisions he ever made.
President Harry S. Truman named Taylor secretary of the National Labor-Management Conference in 1946. The same year, Truman appointed Taylor chairman of the Advisory Board of the Office of War Mobilization and Reconversion. Taylor also served as a consultant to the Commission on Reorganization of the Executive Branch from 1948 to 1949.
In 1951, Truman appointed Taylor director of the Wage Stabilization Board.
During the steel strike of 1959, President Dwight Eisenhower appointed Taylor chairman of the Presidential Board of Inquiry created when Eisenhower invoked the cooling-off provisions of the Taft-Hartley Act. Despite Taylor's role in helping Eisenhower win a court injunction stopping the strike for 90s days, Taylor became involved in helping end the strike. He assisted United Steelworkers of America counsel Arthur Goldberg and Kaiser Steel heir Edgar Kaiser negotiate an agreement which later formed the basis for the national collective bargaining agreement which settled the strike.
In 1961, President John F. Kennedy appointed Taylor to the President's Advisory Committee on Labor Management Policy. During his tenure on the committee, Taylor helped craft a long-term contractual solution to a series of wildcat strikes which had plagued the aerospace industry since World War II. Taylor also resolved railroad disputes in 1964 and 1967, and in 1968 settled the long-running copper mining strike.
In 1961, Taylor led a commission appointed by New York City Mayor Robert F. Wagner, Jr. which crafted a settlement that led to collective bargaining for teachers in New York City. The subsequent election led to the founding of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT). In 1965, Taylor led a fact-finding board which the UFT used to win its first collective bargaining agreement with the city.
But Taylor's most famous (and, according to New York state labor leaders, notorious) act as a public official was his role in crafting New York's "Taylor Law." In the wake of the formation of the UFT and (more immediately) a 1966 New York City transit strike, Governor Nelson Rockefeller appointed a Committee on Public Employment Relations to study the state's public employee collective bargaining laws. Taylor led the other five members of the panel in proposing new legislation which gave New York's public employees significantly stronger collective bargaining rights. On April 25, 1967, Gov. Rockefeller signed the Public Employees Fair Employment Act into law. Popularly known as the "Taylor Law," the Act is considered a model for public sector labor legislation. The law established collective bargaining rights for state-employed workers, and set up procedures and mechanisms for county and local public workers to establish unions and bargain collectively.
Two aspects of the law, however, drew harsh criticism from organized labor. Section 210 prohibits public employees from striking, and fines the union double the amount of each striking employee's salary for each day the strike lasts. Section 201, Part 4, of the law prohibits employers from negotiating benefits provided by a public retirement fund or providing income to public sector retirees.
During his life, Taylor became close friends with many of the most important labor and government officials of his day: Frances Perkins, Cyrus Ching, George Meany, Philip Murray, Clark Kerr, Walter Heller, Henry J. Kaiser, John L. Lewis, George Schultz, John Dunlop, and W. Willard Wirtz.
Taylor retired from the Wharton School in 1971. He died at his home in Philadelphia on the evening of December 15, 1972. He was survived by his wife, the former Edith Ayling; he had no children.