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Right to Work a Man to Death



A key reminder that the intellectual founder of the right to work a man to death movement was Vance Muse, anti-Semite, racist, and anti-worker. Of course these things are not unconnected. Neither are they today as Kentucky destroys its unions and Missouri may well do the same, building on the many states to do so in recent years.

Muse had long made a lucrative living lobbying throughout the South on behalf of conservative and corporate interests or, in the words of one of his critics, “playing rich industrialists as suckers.” Over the course of his career, he fought women’s suffrage, worked to defeat the constitutional amendment prohibiting child labor, lobbied for high tariffs, and sought to repeal the eight-hour day law for railroaders. He was also active in the Committee for the Americanization of the Supreme Court, which targeted Justice Felix Frankfurter, a Vienna-born Jewish man, for his votes in labor cases.

But Muse first attracted national attention through his work with Texas lumberman John Henry Kirby in the Southern Committee to Uphold the Constitution, which sought to deny Roosevelt’s re-nomination in 1936 on grounds that the New Deal threatened the South’s racial order. Despite its name, the Southern Committee to Uphold the Constitution received funding from prominent northern anti-New Deal industrialists and financiers including John Jacob Raskob, Alfred P. Sloan, and brothers Lammot, Irénée, and Pierre du Pont.

Among Muse’s activities on behalf of the Southern Committee was the distribution of what Time called “cheap pamphlets containing blurred photographs of the Roosevelts consorting with Negroes” accompanied by “blatant text proclaiming them ardent Negrophiles.” Muse later defended the action and the use of its most provocative photograph: “I am a Southerner and for white supremacy… It was a picture of Mrs. Roosevelt going to some n—-r meeting with two escorts, n—–s, on each arm.”

In 1936, on the heels of the Southern Committee’s failure to deny Roosevelt’s nomination, Muse incorporated the Christian American Association to continue the fight against the New Deal, offering up a toxic mix of anti-Semitism, racism, anti-Communism, and anti-unionism. The Christian Americans considered the New Deal to be part of the broader assault of “Jewish Marxism” upon Christian free enterprise.

The organization’s titular head, Lewis Valentine Ulrey, explained that after their success in Russia the “Talmudists” had determined to conquer the rest of the world and that “by 1935 they had such open success with the New Deal in the United States, that they decided to openly restore the Sanhedrin,” that is, both the council of Jewish leaders who oversaw a community and the Jewish elders who, according to the Bible, plotted to kill Christ.

This “modern Jewish Sanhedrin” – which included people like Justice Frankfurter and NAACP board member Rabbi Stephen Wise – served as the guiding force of the Roosevelt Administration and the New Deal state. Vance Muse voiced the same anti-Semitic ideas in much simpler terms: “That crazy man in the White House will Sovietize America with the federal hand-outs of the Bum Deal – sorry, New Deal. Or is it the Jew Deal?”

By the early 1940s, Muse and the Christian American Association, like many southern conservatives, focused much of their wrath on the labor movement, especially the unions associated with the Congress of Industrial Organizations. The Christian Americans solicited wealthy southern planters and industrialists for funds to help break the “strangle hold radical labor has on our government” through the enactment of anti-union laws.

Muse and his allies continued to claim that Marxist Jews were pulling the national government’s strings, but the membership of this cabal shifted from the likes of Wise and Frankfurter to CIO leaders like Lee Pressman and Sidney Hillman. The Christian Americans, like other southern conservatives, insisted that the CIO – which had become shorthand for Jewish Marxist unions – was sending organizers to the rural South to inflame the contented but gullible African-American population as the first step in a plot to Sovietize the nation.

Nice guy. Perfect for the Republican Party of 2017.

Also, in case any needs a primer on the origin of my term for those laws.

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  • mikeSchilling

    This is precisely the ad hominem fallacy. There are lots of ways to criticize “right to work” that aren’t facially fallacious.

    • tsam

      Feel free to offer some up–or you just ax grinding?

      • Cassiodorus

        That the structure of this argument is identical to the one conservatives used to say abortion should be illegal because early advocates for choice said (or supposedly said) racist stuff?

        • But that is not, in fact, “the structure of this argument”, because Loomis is not making—and not purporting to make—an “argument” of the sort that is susceptible to the ad hominem fallacy. The ad hominem fallacy takes the general form “X is a bad person [in such a way or ways], therefore proposition P stated by X is false“. Loomis’s argument is of the general form “X is a bad person as evidenced by these several acts, therefore it is likely that this other act of X is also bad“. A logic of human acts, and the evaluation of their human morality (or efficacy or etc.), is not (though some might wish it to be) a propositional logic of truth and falsehood, and it is only in the context of propositional logics that ad hominem argumentation is necessarily fallacious.

    • Jonny Scrum-half

      I agree that right-to work laws are either good or bad regardless of why the guy who originally pushed them did so. But this is still useful information next time I hear someone argue against abortion by citing to Margaret Sanger’s views on eugenics.

      • Jameson Quinn

        Exactly. Or, as Erik said:

        …anti-Semite, racist, and anti-worker. Of course these things are not unconnected.

        The connection, elaborated in the quote, is the reason it’s not fallacious reasoning.

    • rm

      You mean the genetic fallacy, or fallacy of origin. There is no hominem to ad here.

      The thing about logical fallacies is that each is a misuse or distortion of a type of reasoning that is valid in the right context. Name-calling is okay if the label is actually true and fair. Guilt by association is okay if the association is really a problem, as in a criminal conspiracy. Appeals to emotion are fine if the emotions are fully congruent with the logic, evidence, and values used in an argument.

      In this case, the origin of “right-to-work” laws is only irrelevant if it has no bearing on the present day. But in politics, culture, law, and ideology the history of an idea or movement is often very relevant.

  • Jameson Quinn

    Why don’t we call it “right to scab”?

    (Honest question.)

    • MaureenDowdsLudes

      Or “right to work(for peanuts)”?

      • Jameson Quinn

        I think that if their slogan is 3 syllables, ours should be about that much.

      • tsam

        Here in WA, next to Idaho, we call it Right To Exploit.

        • Jameson Quinn

          Is “WA, next to Idaho” what y’all’re calling it now?

          • tsam

            It in the fun parts of Washington. I live in the area next to the border with Idaho, and regularly have endure dumbfucks from Idaho talking about what a liberal hellhole Washington is, while they work here to earn enough to survive because their conservative paradise is a shit place to work.

            • Coconinoite

              And, based on what you’ve indicated, you live in the conservative part of the liberal hellhole that is WA.

    • rm

      Right to freeload — four syllables, but I can’t think of another word for getting benefits other people paid for.

      • jpgray

        “That makes me smart” would sadly be the answer of many then and now.

        • President Putinfluffer

          Voluntary Servitude is what made America Great in the first place, Lib

      • wjts

        “Right to mooch”.

        • kvs

          Right to Serf

  • President Putinfluffer

    Slavery at half the price.

    This is how I plan to make America Greater!

  • efgoldman

    Between this vile piece of dog shit, and Father Coughlin, and the Bund, it’s a wonder we got thru the 30s more or less in one piece.

  • Parmenides

    I’ve always called them right to be fired laws.

    • delazeur

      That’s probably a better name for employ-at-will jurisdictions, although my understanding is that under U.S. law employ-at-will is generally the default and that states have to pass a law to stop being employ-at-will.

  • Mike G

    If Muse were around today the corporate media would label him a “moderate Republican” who can “work across the aisle”

  • Brett

    I still prefer “Right-to-Mooch” because it flows quicker and gets to the essence of what Right-to-Work laws allows (namely, they allow you to freeload off of the contract without paying the maintenance costs). Although “Right-to-Steal” might be even better.

  • BenWatchun

    I don’t mind unions, but don’t force everyone to join. As far as Brett saying we want to “freeload off of the contract” You can keep your contract. We don’t want any part of it. If you “negotiate” a raise, I will keep my same pay. You guys can get the raise, not me. The union came to my company and several of the non union employees had their cars damaged, and one was even threatened with bodily harm unless she paid dues. I’m a democrat, but forced membership dues is just a bit too far left wing for me.

    • gmoot

      Two words: wage spillover. Wages of non-union workers are raised by the presence of unions in the same industry or sector.

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