A History of Right to Work Laws as Right-Wing Projects on Behalf of Organized Wealth
Original research as a resource for people defending Labor Fairness against so-called "Right to Work" laws,
which are more accurately called Union Busting laws.

A section of the Organized Wealth v. Organizing for Human Rights website
Tracking the Attack on Working People, Immigrants, the Impoverished, and Equality for All from Roosevelt to Obama

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Home/Union Busting

The Union Busting Propaganda Machine

The National Right to Work Committee, like many groups in the New Right, serves the interests of powerful employers and organized wealth by promoting a particular form of economic ideology: Social Darwinist Libertarianism, which promotes an unregulated form of "Free Market" capitalism.

Alan Crawford, a conservative journalist who became worried about the New Right in the late 1970s, reported that one conservative activist simply described the National Right to Work Committee as a “pro-business lobby. The activist went on to say (in Crawford’s paraphrase) that the Committee’s “ostensible purpose of fighting compulsory unionism is, in fact, subordinate to its larger interest in furthering right-wing political causes that go beyond the strict issue of right-to-work.”

According to Crawford:
Another activist—employed by the organization—expressed great disappointment with the direction Larson has taken it in recent years, calling it “just another part of the right-wing fund-raising machine.”

And what a machine! According to Crawford, during this period the National Right to Work Committee spent some $2 million annually just for postage for its huge direct mail fundraising operations. In 1978, when President Jimmy Carter sought passage of a package of labor law reforms, the Committee generated about eight million letters in just two months time. On one day, the Committee put expensive full-page advertisements in thirty big city newspapers across the country. “Committee supporters blanketed the offices of their senators with six million letters, cards, and telegrams urging them to reject the ‘labor bosses’’ bill. The bill was beaten.”

A leading national newspaper for the for the ultraconservative movement, Human Events, crowed that “Major credit for blocking the ‘labor law reform act’ should go to the National Right to Work Committee. According to Crawford:

In six months, the committee spent $1.5 million galvanizing opposition to the scheme. The committee placed more than 500 newspaper ads and mailed more than 12 million letters generating heavy mail to wavering Senators.

The use of direct mail by the New Right raises money to fill the coffers. Direct mail also mobilizes people to take action, establishes strategic frames on which to build forthcoming campaigns, and educates readers about political and social issues. Even when not coordinated, the net effect of receiving multiple mailing that address a particular topic is to create and echo effect and make it seem that a specific argument is really just “common sense” rather than a viewpoint with an ideological objective.

As an example, consider the three letters from New Right groups attacking labor unions that arrived the same week in March 1979.

The New Right Network works collaboratively on campaigns--sometimes independently, sometimes as part of a coordinated campaign.
These letters illustrate how the ultraconservative network produces a propaganda campaign that focuses on an issue from a variety or organizations and perspectives.

Click on the image or here to enlarge.


    Letters from 1979:

    • National Right to Work Committee – run in 1979 by Reed Larson.
    • Committee for the Survival of a Free Congress (later the Free Congress Foundation) – run in 1979 by Paul Weyrich.
    • Conservative Caucus – run in 1979 by Howard Phillips.

Among the many institutions built by the New Right coalition are policy centers and think tanks that help develop the arguments, frames, and messages that are condensed into direct mail campaigns. Among the earliest and most influential is the Heritage Foundation, but there are many others. The activities of the ultraconservatives are networked by the annual strategy planning Council for National Policy conferences.

Next: Union Busting, States’ Rights, Culture Wars, and Race

The Union-Busting Collection:

  1. Introduction
  2. Who is Reed Larson? Roots in Kansas
  3. The National Right to Work Committee is Founded
  4. Larson & Hardball Anti-Union Propaganda
  5. Right to Work & the John Birch Society
  6. The Union Busting Propaganda Machine
  7. Union Busting, States’ Rights, Culture Wars, and Race
  8. The Old Christian Right & the Anti-Union Alliance

More Resources

"Right to Work" Means "Union Busting"
home page

Browse a chart showing the right-wing moneybags that fund a national network of anti-union think tanks and policy groups.

See the spiderweb chart of right-wing funders and anti-union think tanks.

Browse a timeline of right-wing organizing on behalf of Organized Wealth.

This chart illustrates that three times since the early 1960s a strategic ultra-conservative coalition has mobilized to move the Republican Party to the Right.

Read this Report on the Right-Wing Juggernaut

Politics In America: the American Right, by Joanne Ricca, of the Wisconsin AFL-CIO, who with a handful of other labor and progressive journalists began tracking the right-wing juggernaut 30 years ago. In PDF format at the union's website.

Democracy is a process,
not a specific set of institutions

Democracy is a process that assumes
the majority of people, over time,
given enough accurate information,
the ability to participate
in a free and open public debate,
and can vote without intimidation, reach constructive decisions
that benefit the whole of society, and
preserve liberty,
protect our freedoms,
extend equality, and
defend democracy.


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