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Free Choice for Workers: A History of the Right to Work Movement

1 rating: 5.0
A book by George C. Leef

This is a captivating chronicle of the fifty-year 'David-Goliath' struggle between the bosses of Big Labour and Americans opposed to their coercive power. Few Americans realise their freedom to say 'no' to compulsory unionism is largely the result of … see full wiki

Author: George C. Leef
Publisher: Jameson Books
1 review about Free Choice for Workers: A History of the...

The invisible powerhouse

  • Nov 21, 2005
In all his many decades of contributions to economics and social science, Nobel laureate F.A. Hayek never wrote truer words than these: "It cannot be stressed enough that the coercion which unions have been permitted to exercise contrary to all principles of freedom under the law is primarily the coercion of fellow workers." The story of how that coercion was imposed on American workers -- and how workers have tried to recapture and restore those rights -- is the focus of this excellent and much-needed book by George Leef.

Right to Work occupies an anomalous position in American life. On the one hand, Americans overwhelmingly endorse the idea that no one should be compelled to join or support a labor union in order to get or keep a job. On the other, the fight to advance that principle tends to take place in relative obscurity. That makes the National Right to Work Committee, the focus of Leef's book, both one of America's most important political organizations, and one of its least well known.

To the extent it is well-known, the National Right to Work Committee is often thought of as part of the American conservative movement. But as Leef makes clear, this is more an effect than a cause. Linda Chavez demonstrated in her 2004 book Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics how the American Left is bought and paid for by Big Labor. From the standpoint of practical politics, therefore, opposing union-boss coercion often becomes a "conservative" position. Despite Big Labor propaganda, Right to Work is neither a corporate front nor an anti-worker position. In recounting the history of the Committee and the fight against forced unionism, Leef shows that Big Business has been, at best, AWOL. More often, it has sided with the union bosses' strong-arm tactics in pursuit of the shameful lie of "industrial peace." In fact, the fight has been led by heroic union members, small employers, and other principled individuals. The price some of them have had to pay for their principles -- up to and including death at the hands of union thugs -- is a sobering fact that many Americans may, yet again, not be aware of.

"Free Choice for Workers" is a fascinating look at American labor history. But it's also a revealing peek inside a most effective political organization. Some of the political pelts hanging on the Right to Work trophy wall include not only the defeat of common-situs picketing in the 1970s and the Pushbutton Strike Bill in the 1990s, but also the electoral defeat of Big Labor puppets like former U.S. senators Gail McGee and Al Gore, Sr. Additionally, as Leef explains, the National Right to Work Committee pioneered the use of direct mail (the cornerstone of the modern conservative movement) for mobilization and fundraising. Similarly, the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation was "the first conservative nonprofit legal aid organization and it blazed the trail for the entire conservative litigation movement" (p. 149). I'd bet few "movement conservatives" realize quite how much they owe to Right to Work heroes like Reed Larson.

Finally, "Free Choice for Workers" is a disturbing study of how the Left works year after year, decade after decade, to restrict the rights of employers, property owners, and working men and women. Their language of "solidarity" and "collective security" comes straight out of the socialist hymnal. But their true objective is expanding their own empire of wealth and power. George Leef has given us yet more proof of just how far down Hayek's road to serfdom America has already traveled.

If turning the country around can be achieved through political action (a debateable question, though outside the scope of this book), success or failure will have a lot to do with the success or failure of the Right to Work movement. And that makes this book a very important one indeed.

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