Tuesday, October 2, 2018

the last book I ever read (The Fall of Wisconsin: The Conservative Conquest of a Progressive Bastion and the Future of American Politics, excerpt nine)

from The Fall of Wisconsin: The Conservative Conquest of a Progressive Bastion and the Future of American Politics by Dan Kaufman:

The day after the paper printed the editorial, a Houston political activist named Vance Muse called Ruggles to ask permission for his organization, the Christian American Association, to pursue the proposal. Ruggles agreed and suggested to Muse that he call it a “Right to Work Amendment.” Muse, an avowed racist—he told a United States Senate committee in 1936, “I am a Southerner and for white supremacy”—held a special animus toward unions, which he believed fostered race-mixing. In Southern Exposure, a 1946 book about racism in the South, the muckraking journalist Stetson Kennedy quoted Muse’s pitch on the need for right-to-work, in which he said: “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.”

But Muse was also an effective fundraiser—he received support from General Motors and the du Pont family, among others—and lobbyist. In 1944, the Christian American Association sponsored the amendment that made Arkansas one of the country’s first right-to-work states. By 1947, ten more states, most of them in the South, had become right-to-work, embodying the growing national backlash against labor brought on by the Red Scare. That same year, over President Harry Truman’s veto, Congress passed the Taft-Hartley Act, which undercut the Wagner Act by placing numerous restrictions on unions, among them a clause granting states the power to become right-to-work. Muse died in 1950, but his campaign had already been taken over by more mainstream proponents. In 1955, Fred Hartley, the former congressman from New Jersey who helped draft Taft-Hartley, founded the National Right to Work Committee. Three years later, Kansas legislators, with the enthusiastic support of the oil magnate Fred Koch, David and Charles Koch’s father, adopted a right-to-work amendment in their state.

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