THE TINKERING that was done to the labor bill on the floor of the House of Representatives improved it some, but not much. The friends of organized labor had the votes lined up, and from among the amendments offered they accepted only those that were quite palatable, never mind that their performance gave the impression that they were prepared to water down the bill. The result is that the Senate faces the major task of trying to turn this one-sided piece of legislation into the basic reform the labor laws need.

It is not to endorse everything that is in the House-approved bill to observe that our quarrel is primarily with what the bill fails to do, as distinct from what it does. It is true, as organized labor has successfully argued to a majority of House members, that some employers have abused the existing law and used its loopholes to frustrate legitimate organizing efforts and to deprive employees of their legal rights. But it is also true that organized labor has engaged in practices that are just as questionable. And this bill, unfortunately, attempts to deal only with the first half of the problem.

It became quite clear as the arguments over this legislation went forward that the people the labor laws were originally written to protect are being increasingly forgotten. Business leaders talk about their problems in opposing or bargaining with labor unions. Union leaders talk about their problems in bargaining with employers or trying to organize plants over management opposition. No one seems to talk in the workers' behalf. The union leaders, of course, claim that they do - and no doubt their predecessors once did. But the rhetoric of this debate underlines the degree to which much of organized labor now acts as an independent force, deeply concerned about its own internal and external needs, which sometimes are - but sometimes are not - the same as the needs of the people it is supposed to be representing.

That is the point we urge the Senate to keep in mind as it tries to add some balance to the bill the House has approved. Certain of the bill's provisions are designed to protect the interests of workers; but others are designed to protect the interests of unions as unions and not as representatives of workers. Similarly, some of the proposals that business leaders have been trying to get Congress to consider are designed only to protect business interests against unions without regard to their effect on workers. Sorting these out is not easy, but it is a job the Senate must do if it has any intention of producing a bill that deserves to be called a labor-reform act.