Facing South offers a good piece of political history on the roots of right-to-work laws now that Michigan joined Arkansas and 22 other states with laws that allow non-union workers to free-ride on union contracts.
(Say, that supposedly pro-business tool really made Arkansas an economic powerhouse, didn’t it?)
From the article:
The history of anti-labor “right-to-work” laws starts in Houston. It was there in 1936 that Vance Muse, an oil industry lobbyist, founded the Christian American Association with backing from Southern oil companies and industrialists from the Northeast.
As Dartmouth sociologist Marc Dixon notes in his fascinating history of the period, “The Christian American Association was the first in the nation to champion the ‘Right-to-Work’ as a full-blown political slogan.”
Muse was a fixture in far-right politics in the South before settling into his anti-labor crusade. In his 1946 book “Southern Exposure,” crusading journalist Stetson Kennedy wrote:
The man Muse is quite a character. He is six foot four, wears a ten-gallon hat, but generally reserves his cowboy boots for trips Nawth. Now over fifty, Muse has been professionally engaged in reactionary enterprises for more than a quarter of a century.
As Kennedy described, these causes included opposing women’s suffrage, child labor laws, integration and growing efforts to change the Southern political order, as represented in the threat of Roosevelt’s New Deal.
The bigoted anti-human rights crusaders of the ’40s and ’50s are, of course, the Republican Party of today’s Solid South. Note the map of right to work states.