News Perspectives

Racist Roots of “Right to Work” Laws

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“Forged in the Jim Crow South, the deceptively-named ‘Right-to-Work’ movement is steeped in a decades-long legacy of bigotry and violence.” Early proponents were racists and misogynists who lobbied state legislators to protect whites against race mixing and miscegenation, according to sources cited on AFSCME’s new webpage titled “The Racist Roots of ‘Right to Work.’”

The phrase itself was popularized in the 1930s by political lobbyist Vance Muse, a self-described white supremacist who created the Christian American Association in 1944 and joined the campaign to bring “Right-to-Work” laws to Texas, Arkansas, and ultimately the whole of the South.

During that campaign, his fearmongering, racist, and anti-union statements included: “White women and white men will be forced into organizations [labor unions] with black African apes whom they will have to call ‘brother’ or lose their jobs.”  

Since that time nearly 80 years ago, 27 states have successfully passed this anti-union legislation, stretching from the South to the Midwest and including former union strongholds in Michigan and Wisconsin.

This spring, the U.S. Supreme Court will render an opinion on Janus v. AFSCME, a case that could make “Right to Work” the law of the land.

See the complete story, webpage, and materials here. 

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