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"Right to Work" Is Texas-Made

Gene Lantz
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Texas implemented its "right to work/scab" law even before the federal law (Taft-Hartley) made it legal. The phrase, one of the most successfully misleading propaganda phrases in history, is credited to the Dallas Morning News, and they acknowledge it.

Texas AFL-CIO Communications Director Ed Sills sent this out on February 22, 2017:

So-called "right to work" is a direct attack on the ability of working people to speak up together on the job. It is also a misnomer, because the laws are not about anyone's right to work. Add this: The proposed national "right to work" law is a demonstration of the rank hypocrisy of the same "states' rights" crowd that wants to rewrite the U.S Constitution for its own ideological purposes.    Even worse, the law has racist origins, but first some background on the "states' rights" piece.    As the Village Voice recounts in a fine article on the national "right to work" proposal by Rep. Joe Wilson, R-South Carolina (of "You lie!" infamy - his shout at President Obama during a State of the Union speech) and Sen. Steve King, R-Iowa, "right to work" began in Texas.    A piece of the argument for the laws was that states should be able to decide whether or not to allow mandatory fees to labor organizations to cover the cost of bargaining on their behalf. The original National Labor Relations Act under President Franklin Roosevelt uniformly allowed such "security clauses." The Taft-Hartley Act of 1947 - enacted into law over the veto of President Harry Truman - gave states the option of disallowing them and forcing unions to swallow the cost of bargaining for employees who were not paying their share.    So make no mistake: The folks who wanted to harm unions by letting working people decline to pay for the cost of representation loved state choice in 1947, but hate it now      Gov. Greg Abbott and others who want to tear up and rewrite the U.S. Constitution's fine balance of federal and state power roll like this: If they like what the federal government is doing, they are fine with federal domination of states; if they don't like what the federal government is doing, they want states to decide.    Now for the racism part. The Village Voice offers a highly unflattering description of the Texas oilman who came up with the "right to work" concept:    Since their introduction, the laws have had a sordid history.   The first right-to-work push kicked off in Texas in 1941, against the backdrop of a national wave of union organizing wins and New Deal reforms that brought the labor movement to the doorstep of the largely union-free South and Southwest. Anxious about the rapidly changing tide, a group of conservative small-business owners, under the banner of the Christian American Association, began to lobby against mandatory union dues. Heading the group was Vance Muse, a former oil industry lobbyist later described by his own grandson as a "white supremacist, an anti-Semite, and a Communist-baiter" who opposed women's suffrage and child labor laws. He warned the local press of a "red radical scheme to organize Negro maids, cooks, and nurses in order to have a Communist informer in every Southern home."    Read more:    It gets even uglier. Muse was quoted on labor unions in a book by Stetson Kennedy, famed for writing about his infiltration of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1940s and persuading Georgia to revoke the KKK charter. Kennedy printed the following reprehensible and sickening quote by Muse about "right to work" in his book Southern Exposure. (Trivia: Kennedy also reported that he provided code words and other inside information for a story arc on the "Superman" radio program in which the Man of Steel battled the KKK.)    Wikipedia on Muse:    He also used segregationist views as an argument against unions, stating that "From now on, white women and white men will be forced into organizations with black African apes whom they will have to call 'brother' or lose their jobs."      For more on that quotation, which has made the rounds in discussion of "right to work" over the years, see this article by journalist Scott Ames:    In the 1920s and 30s, before Muse invented "Right To Work," he was notorious for lobbying against women's suffrage, against outlawing child labor, against the 8-hour workday, and for "Americanization of the Supreme Court" to remove Austrian-born Jewish Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter. Muse and his groups were investigated by numerous committees and the FBI, but he always landed on his feet thanks to his wealthy sponsors, ranging from Texas oil and cotton magnates, to northern petrochemicals titans like the DuPonts and the Pews.   Read more:    The Rest of the Story: In the article at the link immediately above, Ames discusses a challenge to his use of the incendiary quote capturing the depths of Muse's racism. An apparent disinformation campaign was launched by Stanley Greer of the anti-union National Right to Work Foundation, who claimed inaccurately that the quotation was made up and had never appeared in print until decades after Muse's death. With the help of a librarian, Ames found the contemporary quote in Southern Exposure.    As it happens, Greer is also the author of a February 2015 report on unionism in Texas - really a blueprint for decimating labor unions -- which was published by the right-wing Texas Public Policy Foundation:(http://www.texaspolicycom/library/doclib/2015-02-RR03-CEF-StateLaborMgmtPolicy-SGreer-jag02242015.pdf). The report includes the seeds of last session's SB 1968 and this session's SB 13, the bill that would take away the freedom of public employees in Texas to voluntarily deduct dues from their paycheck to the labor organization of their choice.