Who is Reed Larson?
Roots in Kansas
>Factoid: Reed Larson was the head of the National Right to Work Committee for decades
In 1947, native Kansan Reed Larson joined the engineering department of the Coleman Company in Wichita, which manufactured home heating equipment. Larson joined the Wichita Junior Chamber of Commerce (the Jaycees), and was elected the group’s president in 1952. The Jaycees are a group within the Chamber of Commerce where the captains of industry watch their future lieutenants run projects.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce was in the midst of a publicity program linking the New Deal programs, labor unions, and subversives as undermining the free enterprise system. In Kansas, Larson ran this right-wing project under the name "Operation Economy," which “directed distribution of literature to 40,000 employees of Wichita business concerns urging economy in government.” He was elected president of the statewide Kansas Jaycees in 1953.
Given the context of Larson’s work in the Jaycees, it is not surprising that in 1954 he was named the executive vice president of the new Kansans for Right to Work. Other Midwest states—Iowa, Nebraska, North and South Dakota—had already passed Right to Work legislation, as had nearby Arkansas. The first attempt to pass legislation in Kansas failed in 1954. Larson helped mount publicity and organizing campaign, and in 1958 Kansans for Right to Work saw their efforts succeed through a public referendum that modified the state constitution. The victory boosted Larson’s reputation in the national scene, and deservedly so.
Several other states saw Right to Work laws defeated around the same time. It had been three years since the last state passed a similar law (Utah in 1955), and it would be 18 years before the next state, Louisiana, did likewise.
It was in Kansas that Larson honed his skills at coalition building, and was exposed to the ultraconservative political ideology he would later come to master:
Larson came to the attention of Edwin Dillard, chairman of the National Right to Work Committee, who would soon join the Kansas contingent as an endorser of the ultraconservative John Birch Society (JBS). In 1959 (the same year the JBS began operation) Dillard recruited Larson to be the executive vice president of the National Right to Work Committee.
Larson kept up his contacts in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, writing in a letter to the group, “We are anxious to continue the close cooperation we have enjoyed with members of the staff of the U.S. Chamber.”
In the 1970s, W. B. Camp, an early director and major contributor to the NRTWC, chaired the Voluntary Unionism Committee of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a group he had previously served as treasurer. Larson often was invited to sit in on meetings of the Voluntary Unionism Committee while Camp was chair.
Reed Larson was not in Kansas anymore; and the road he was following led to something quite similar to Oz.
"Right to Work" Means "Union Busting"
Read This Report on th Right-Wing JuggernautPolitics 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,
Democracy is a process
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