After I wrote my piece on why a candidate with Ronald Reagan’s record would encounter problems if he were trying to become the Republican presidential nominee today, I received the following comment from Stan Greer of the National Right to Work Committee from the National Institute for Labor Relations Research:
The author’s comment about Ronald Reagan’s stance on Right to Work laws is very misleading. Actually, that’s too kind. It’s basically false.
The kernel of truth is that Reagan did oppose Right to Work laws before he entered electoral politics and did not actively support making California a Right to Work state while he was governor. However, by the time Reagan became a serious presidential candidate, he had seen the light. He became an increasingly staunch supporter of state Right to Work laws and a staunch opponent of federal legislation designed to expand Big Labor’s compulsory-unionism privileges. On January 13, 1976, the Washington Post’s Lou Cannon quoted Reagan: “I would say that right now my leaning is very heavily toward right-to-work, and I think that’s the feeling of the rank-and-file of labor.”
By June 6, 1979, Reagan wasn’t hedging at all. He said: “It should be the right of the individual to decide whether he wants to belong to a union.”
The fact that the author of this article could refer to Reagan simply as an “opponent” of Right to Work laws, without acknowledging that years before he became President he changed into a Right to Work supporter, and remained one for the rest of his political career, reflects either gross ignorance or malice on his part. The fact that the Frum Forum could publish such an inane and ill-founded claim suggest “fact checking” is not something David Frum and his cohorts do.
I would argue that it’s Mr. Greer who strikes me as ill-founded. Reagan had not abandoned his opposition to right-to-work laws by the time he was running for Governor of California in 1966. His support for such laws was a key point of his official Labor for Reagan Committee. He wrote to a supporter in July 1966 that “I also was a leader of our Guild in the fight in 1958 against the right-to-work bill. I am still opposed to right-to-work.” Yes, as a presidential candidate, Reagan did come to support right-to-work laws, even as he came to denounce abortion.
The fact remains that he opposed right-to-work as candidate and governor, and the likes of Mr. Greer likely would give a very hard time to any presidential candidate nowadays who had done the same.