Monday, March 9, 2015

On 'right-to-work," Jim Crow & today's WI all-white bill signing

[Updated 7:09 p.m.] I'd written on my blog and at Facebook today - - 

Carefully-constructed photo op leaves out minorities. Message sent.…/scott-walker-signs-right-to-work-…
...about the all-white big-wigs who posed together at a private company to watch Scott Walker sign into law the 'right-to-work' bill about which he'd been feigning disinterest.

I'll bet this collection of ideologues doesn't know anything about the ugly history of the bill they gathered to celebrate with, and on behalf of Walker.

- - so you might want to read more from the Institute for Southern Studies here about the racist origins of 'right-to-work' legislation in the anti-union south, as well as in Kansas, where the founder of the Koch interest empire played a key role.

How does this fit into Wisconsin, or, I suppose, the Progressive and idealistic Wisconsin we once knew?

Some highlights:
...little has been said about the origins of "right-to-work" laws, which find their roots in extreme pro-segregationist and anti-communist elements in the 1940s South. The history of anti-labor "right-to-work" laws starts in Houston. It was there in 1936 that Vance Muse, an oil industry lobbyist, founded the Christian American Association with backing from Southern oil companies and industrialists from the Northeast...
While working to pass right-to-work legislation in Texas, Muse and the Association took their efforts to Arkansas and Florida, where a similar message equating union growth with race-mixing and communism led to the passage of the nation's first right-to-work laws in 1944. In all, 14 states passed such legislation by 1947, when conservatives in Congress successfully passed Section 14(b) of the Taft-Hartley Act, enshrining the right of states to pass laws that allow workers to receive union benefits without joining a union. 
Civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr., who saw an alliance with labor as crucial to advancing civil rights as well as economic justice for all workers, spoke out against right-to-work laws; this 1961 statement by King was widely circulated this week during Michigan's labor battles: 
"In our glorious fight for civil rights, we must guard against being fooled by false slogans, such as ‘right to work.’ It is a law to rob us of our civil rights and job rights. Its purpose is to destroy labor unions and the freedom of collective bargaining by which unions have improved wages and working conditions of everyone…Wherever these laws have been passed, wages are lower, job opportunities are fewer and there are no civil rights... "
Interestingly, 11 years later, Kansas also passed a right-to-work law, with the support of Texas-born energy businessman Fred Koch, who also viewed unions as vessels for communism and integration. Koch's sons Charles and David went on to form the Tea Party group Americans for Prosperity, which pushed for the Michigan right-to-work measure, and is now advocating for states that already have such laws, like North Carolina and Virginia, to further enshrine them in their state constitutions.


Anonymous said...

This photo doesn't show any only shows those who passed the law so workers would have more "individual freedoms" in the workplace. Those in the photo must have given the workers the freedom to not appear at the bill signing which we were told was all about the workers in the work place!

Anonymous said...

The sign under the table is Orwellian in the extreme. At the risk of invoking Godwin's Law, I'll point out that it is the same words as "Arbeit macht frei" above Auschwitz. While we are a long way from genocide, we are not far from totalitarianism in our government. Check out Sheldon Wolin's theory of "inverted totalitarianism" for some disconcerting parallels.

Jake formerly of the LP said...

That picture really does speak a thousand words. In race, gender and class.

Anonymous said...

Looks like a bunch of fat cats. Literally.

Anonymous said...

The truth is that the owner of Badger Meter ordered employees to stay clear of the signing to avoid embarrassing the company. Now that certainly sounds like an employer who is going to raise the wages for his workers and has their best interests at heart. What a bunch of phonies and shame on the people of Wisconsin for turning a blind eye to what Walker, Vos and Fitzgerald are doing to them.

Anonymous said...

The guy second from right certainly looks like he could eat half a Mary Lazich (our idiot of the green sweater, 2nd from left)and still have room for an hors d'ouevre or 2!

my5cents said...

All of this is right up there with how companies responded to women working in factories back in the 60's and 70's. I came across a letter in a company archives one time that really spelled out how they felt about women working in their factories, complaining about having to create bathroom facilities, women's work clothing, etc. They were not happy about having to do any of it. They only wanted men working for them. It brings back that same beat-down feeling that you are just a peon and unimportant in the grand scheme of life. People need to get out and vote to change things.

Anonymous said...

OK. So, goal one is to throw the gang of criminals out of office at the ballot box.

But given the election thefts which have taken place repeatedly in Waukesha, you may find yourself having defeated Walker at the ballot box, but with Walker claiming victory through blatant fraud.

In that case, it may be necessary to organize to remove him by force. This has been done repeatedly in Eastern Europe since the fall of the USSR.

The Democratic Party needs to be aware of the seriousness of the situation; it's getting as bad as the 1870s. When General Grant had to send in the army to ensure democracy in an number of states.

Jake formerly of the LP said...

Many of these guys wish we could go back to the business environment of 40 years ago, where they didn't have to compete with women and could grab a fat paycheck for having 3-martini lunches as they "strategized."

With these guys in charge, any wonder why the rest of the nation is kicking our ass economically?