Chris Hayes: “Right to Work” is Racist

If you can’t win an argument, just yell, “Racist!” and you’ll win every time. “Anti-semitic” also works. And “homophobe” and “conspiracy theorist.” The media have proven that these methods work wonderfully in winning arguments as well as the hearts and minds of their viewers and listeners.

Referring to Michigan’s newly obtained right to work status, Chris Hayes of MSNBC wanted to make sure the rest of the panel to whom he was talking and all the listeners understood that right to work legislation has its roots in “southern racism” and racial segregation. He said:

“The phrase is coined by a guy by the name of Vance Muse, who is an oil industry lobbyist in Houston, Texas in the 1930s who is a white supremacist and segregationist, who — that’s what the term was first brought into use, to fight against unions as sites of forced racial integration. The origin of this movement is an origin of the movement of the segregationist white supremacist south against the labor union as a site of forced racial integration.”

First of all, Vance Muse didn’t coin the term “right to work.” In the context of labor unions, the phrase originally appeared in a Labor Day editorial in the Dallas Morning News in 1941. The editorial spoke in favor of a law that would allow employees the freedom to choose whether or not to join a union. The proposed law or amendment would effectively give workers the “right to work” regardless of their membership status in a union.

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Apparently, when Muse read this editorial, he was intrigued by the phrase and met with the editor who encouraged Muse to use the phrase “right to work” when lobbying for legislation.

But Vance Muse and his “American Christian Association” were not the only entities in favor of right to work legislation. There were many who favored it. In fact, by the time the Taft-Hartley amendment was enacted in 1947, which allowed states to enact right to work laws, proponents sought to distance themselves from Mr. Muse.

Chris Hayes forgot to mention that Muse was a southern Democrat, so allegations of his being tied to racism somehow are not surprising. Even assuming that Muse was a racist, some who opposed right to work laws around that time opposed them on grounds that they would threaten racial segregation. If you think about it, right to work laws opened the doors to racial integration, something that many “closed shop” unions didn’t want. So right to work legislation didn’t have anything to do with white supremacy. If anything, it was the unions who wanted to keep racial segregation.

Actually, racial discrimination still is a problem in many unions even today, especially in the construction unions in the north. Blacks are often excluded from work because of their race, and the majority of union bosses are white. In any other business, this “inequality” would be considered racist.

Chris Hayes pretends to be uncomfortable about using the phrase “right to work” because of its “deep, dark and racist secret past.” But he ignores the racial discrimination still present in many unions and the fact that right to work states have consistently lower unemployment rates. Economies are better in right to work states where everyone including minorities have the right to work without the tyranny and/or racial discrimination of a union.

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