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The Racist origins of Right to Work

The Stand reports on Iowa Congressman Steve King and the racist origins of ‘right-to-work’ laws

Posted on
Mar 15, 2017

With Right to Work Laws popping up all over the country, even in the very pro-union Northeast, we decided to take a look at the racist origins of these laws.  Right to Work is being pushed around the country by politicians like the noted racist Steve King, who sponsored the National Right to Work Law. Read more below.

Controversial Iowa Rep. Steve King is once again in hot water for espousing racist, white nationalist views, tweeting that “we can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.” He doubled down on his bigoted words over the weekend, telling CNN that “I meant exactly what I said.”

King’s latest racist remarks drew praise from Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, who tweeted “GOD BLESS STEVE KING,” and sharp rebukes from just about everyone else, including fellow Republicans in Congress and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, just to name a few.

While this story is making headlines, there’s been scant attention paid to how King’s policy agenda reflects his white nationalist views. King is the author of the federal bill that would impose a right-to-work scheme nationally, which would be devastating to our country’s economy and would hit workers, especially people of color, square in the pocketbook.

Backed by an array of wealthy corporations and secret deep-pocketed donors, these laws have proliferated in Republican-controlled states across the country, leading to lower wages and fewer benefits for not just union workers, but all workers in those states. People of color — particularly women of color — are hit hardest by these laws, which fuel income inequality and put their American Dream further out of reach. According to the Economic Policy Institute, wages in right-to-work states are 3.2% lower than in non-right-to-work states. Health insurance and retirement security are scarcer.

So why would any policymaker push legislation that lowers wages? One obvious reason is that big corporations love these laws, because they undercut the ability of working people to stand together in a union to demand fair wages and decent benefits for a hard day’s work. But if you look at the history of these laws, there’s an even more sinister reason behind them: racism.

Many attacks on labor unions have roots in white supremacism.

University of Arkansas Associate Prof. Michael Pierce explained:

“Right-to-work laws originated as means to maintain Jim Crow labor relations and to beat back what was seen as a Jewish cabal to foment a revolution.

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