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.

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Larson & Hardball Anti-Union Propaganda

When Dorothy, the Tin Woodsman, the Lion, and the Scarecrow arrive in the magnificent city of Oz, they expect to find a wizard. Instead, behind the curtain, they find an energetic man pulling the strings that create the illusion.

For thirty years Reed Larson pulled those strings for the National Right to Work Committee.

An example of his hardball approach to anti-union advocacy became apparent in 1962 when the National Right to Work Committee produced a 16mm film docudrama titled And Women Must Weep. Distributed around the country, the Committee claimed the film dramatized a 1955-56 strike in Princeton, Indiana by union members from the International Association of Machinists (IAM).

IAM disputed the claims in And Women Must Weep, and sent their own filmmaker Gordon Cole with a real documentary crew to Princeton, Indiana to interview actual participants, and produce a rebuttal film, Anatomy of a Lie.

According to a book by Robert G. Rodden, “Without actors or props or phony settings, [Cole] let the people of Princeton speak for themselves.”

  

NRTWC film portrays union president as thuggish man.
The woman who was the actual union president is interviewed in the IAM documentary.

The local IAM union still posts the details of the two films on its web page, drawing text from the Rodden book.

In “. . . Weep,” the union president, played by a professional actor, was portrayed as a big, burly, blustering bully who bellowed throughout a staged “union meeting.” The Cole film showed the real union president, a half-blind, soft spoken, little fifty-nine-year-old lady.

In “Weep,” the “union boss” called a strike because he was fired for taking too much time off. In the “Anatomy Of A Lie” union members testified that when new absentee corporate owners bought Potter and Brumfield they “started to change everything,” introducing time study, violating the contract and forcing the lodge to arbitrate almost every grievance.

In “Weep,” the strike was shouted through on a voice vote at what seemed to be a meeting of ten or twelve people in a small room. Cole proved, through personal, on-the-spot interviews, that some 400 of Potter and Brumfield’s 500 workers attended a mass meeting in the National Guard Armory and only nine votes were cast against the strike in secret balloting.
In “Weep,” the strike was presented as a wildcat walkout that came as “a complete surprise to everyone,” Workers coming to the plant were supposedly mystified to find picket lines. Actors milled about mouthing such lines as “Nobody said we were going on strike.” In “Anatomy” members told Cole all members had notice of the strike vote both through the lodge and announcements on the radio.

In “Weep,” officers and pickets were all portrayed as strong-arm toughs. In filmed interviews with the people of Princeton Cole learned that 80% of the workers and seven of ten local lodge officers were women.

In “Weep,” the union engaged in mass picketing and perpetrated acts of violence. On-the-spot witnesses told Cole that number of pickets was strictly limited by law and the sheriff testified on camera that “the union gave us no trouble.” Cole capped his presentation by interviewing the father of the wounded baby. In “Weep” the narrator claimed, “A bullet passed through the brain of the baby.” In “Anatomy” the father informed Cole that his daughter, now five years old, was in perfect health. Though employed in a town some miles away the father voluntarily returned to Princeton to set the record straight. His statement on camera made it clear there was never any evidence of involvement by the union or its members.

The National Labor Relations Board called the film a “misrepresentation which exceeded the bounds of permissible campaign propaganda.” Reed Larson was a wizard in helping the National Right to Work Committee reframe messages for the Old Right and push hardball anti-union myths.

Next: Right to Work & the John Birch Society


National Right to Work Committee, 1962, And Women Must Weep, 26 minutes, color. Special Collections, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers archive, Georgia State University, http://www.library.gsu.edu/spcoll/labor/iam/sources.asp. Cataloged: “Anti-union film dramatizing a wildcat strike staged by the IAM in Princeton, Indiana in 1956-57.”

International Association of Machinists, 1962, Anatomy of a Lie, 19 minutes, color. Special Collections, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers archive, Georgia State University, http://www.library.gsu.edu/spcoll/labor/iam/sources.asp. Cataloged: “Refutes details shown in "And Women Must Weep", produced by the National Right to Work Committee.”

Rodden, The Fighting Machinists, http://www.iamawlodge1426.org/hisupdate60.htm.

Rodden, The Fighting Machinists, http://www.iamawlodge1426.org/hisupdate60.htm.

Group Research, The Organized Right Wing Versus Organized Labor, p. 1, citing Plochman and Harrison 140 NLRB 130, Carl T. Mason 142 NLRB 480, and Storkline 142 NLRB 875.


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.

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