A False Correction on Reagan’s Record

October 20th, 2011 at 10:33 am | 18 Comments |

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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.

Recent Posts by Geoffrey Kabaservice

18 Comments so far ↓

  • Oldskool

    Stan and the rest of his party would probably be shocked to know how much Reagan liked FDR.

  • lib2core

    It would not matter what changes he made toward the more rigid conservative side, in todays world of ‘conservatism’ he would be skewered for past views. I don’t agree with most of the republican viewpoints but I value people like David Frum for his honest discussions on the radical extremists.

  • Graychin

    Like Romney, it seems that Reagan experienced several “revelations” on the Road to the White House.

  • stangreer

    Geoffrey Kabaservice is ridiculous. I did not say Reagan supported Right to Work laws as governor. In fact, I said he “did not actively support” them as governor Based on the letter Dr. Kabaservice cites here, of which I was previously unaware, I might better have said “continued to oppose Right to Work as governor.” But that is a matter of nuance. Contrast that with Dr. Kabaservice, who wrote an article that simply stated Reagan “outspokenly opposed” Right to Work, unlike today’s GOP presidential candidates. Kabaservice now acknowledges Reagan was in fact a Right to Work supporter from the mid-seventies on, but sees no need to correct his article.

    Dr. K, your article was comparing Reagan to today’s GOP presidential candidates. The stance Reagan took while he was a presidential candidate (and president) is what is most relevant to your article. Your special pleading, after-the-fact insistence that it’s only the stance that Reagan took on Right to Work years before he entered presidential politics that matters is pathetic. By that standard, I could write today: “Mitt Romney has never offered any public support for Right to Work legislation” and be telling of the truth. But of course, if I actually said that, I would be lying — like Dr. K.

    Stan Greer
    National Institute for Labor Relations Research
    National Right to Work Committee

    • jamesj

      Hi Stan. I believe that you are correct that Reagan flip-flopped on this issue during the course of his political career and he did indeed end up voicing support for right to work in a few verbal statements during his presidency. But would you also disagree with Geoffrey’s main premise that Reagan’s career included support for positions that are deal-breakers in the modern Republican Party’s voting base? Just curious. Thanks for your time.

      • Graychin

        It is very important to the “Right To Work” (sic) lobby that their ideology have the full imprimatur of Ronald Reagan. Even if Reagan was a Union man and came to his anti-union views very late in his life.

        “Where free unions and collective bargaining are forbidden, freedom is lost.” – Ronald Reagan, September 1, 1980.

    • TerryF98

      “and be telling of the truth. But of course, if I actually said that, I would be lying — like Dr. K.”

      A bit like the very premise of your work.

      “Right to work” actually means “kill the unions” why don’t you tell the truth instead of hiding behind lies and distortions?

  • Frumplestiltskin

    “The stance Reagan took while he was a presidential candidate (and president) is what is most relevant to your article.”

    No, that is a reading comprehension fail. During the debate it was mentioned that Perry was part of the Al Gore campaign with reference that that is a major disqualifier, would Mr. Greer state that Reagan’s support for Harry Truman would have likewise have been a disqualifier? Obviously Stan Greer did not get the article, or refused to get it, most likely he is too freaking thick to have gotten it.

  • stangreer

    Terry F98, your comment is relevant to this thread. I have defended Right to Work laws against such foolishness many times, as you can see for yourself on the http://www.nilrr.org web site. Check out yourself if you are really interested. I expect you’re just interested in spouting off.

    JamesJ, thanks for voicing your agreement with me on the main question at issue here. As for your question, yes, Dr K is wrong in this matter as well. A good current example is Michelle Bachmann (sp. ?). In 2007, she voted to federalize union “exclusive” bargaining over state and local public safety employees’ terms of employment. The National Right to Work Committee beat up on her for this vote. Subsequently, she repudiated it, and is now a full-fledged Right to Work supporter. Her past is no issue with the Right to Work Committee at this time, as you can confirm from the record. Her campaign has its problems, as you know, but she isn’t taking any potshots from the Committee or its research affiliate.

  • stangreer

    Frumpelstiltskin, if you think Perry’s past as an Al Gore supporter is a serious problem for him now, or a serious issue brought up by other candidates or activist groups, you must be living on another planet. I don’t think even Dr. K would imply something so nonsensical.

    I think I’m finished with the FrumForum crowd now. Have a good day.

    • TerryF98

      Don’t let the door hit your lying ass on the way out.

      • Curiosity

        “I expect you’re just interested in spouting off.” – stangreer (to Terry)

        I thought you nailed it when you said it stangreer, but it is always nice to have a person confirm it by having them make comments like Terry’s here.

    • Oldskool

      I would’ve gone with, “I said GOOD DAY, sir!” in a haughty tone.

  • Frumplestiltskin

    Greer: “if you think Perry’s past as an Al Gore supporter is a serious problem for him now, or a serious issue brought up by other candidates”

    Oh lord, it was mentioned during the debate in Las Vegas. Romney brought up Perry’s work as a young Texas politician in support of Al Gore’s 1988 presidential campaign.

    “With regard to track record and the past, governor, you were the chairman of Al Gore’s campaign. And there was a fellow Texan named George Bush running,” Romney said. “So if we’re looking at the past, I think we know where you were.”

    (The non-partisan Politifact determined that Perry was not Gore’s campaign chairman, but rather, simply a single supporter.)

    So stangreer must be the one living on another planet. I mean, jeez, Romney mentioned it during the DEBATE. You think he would have done that if he didn’t think it would have traction? And in fact he freaking lied about it, that is how much he thinks it would have helped him.

    So yeah, Greer is simply too thickheaded to understand the point. And it is funny how he thinks that his running away from us will somehow impress us. He would be crushed so to save his precious little ego won’t dare show up again. It literally took me 10 seconds on google to show him for the fool that he is.

  • JohnMcC

    Two thoughts: First that any ‘rights’ I have to work have been much much more endangered by arbitrary decisions by employers than by any union. The phrase “right to work” is a typical conservative misdirection. What our friend Stan actually represents is the “right to fire” anyone at any time for any reason and the “right” to refuse to hire or promote anyone at any time.

    Second, about Mr Reagan vis the modern Repub party: Can we imagine the Repubs that we know today nominating someone who was President and member of the Board of Directors of a labor union and who was subpoena’d by the House Un-American Activities Committee? Sure. We. Can.

    • Curiosity

      From wikipedia:

      “Right-to-work laws are statutes enforced in twenty-two U.S. states, mostly in the southern or western U.S., allowed under provisions of the Taft-Hartley Act, which prohibit agreements between labor unions and employers that make membership, payment of union dues, or fees a condition of employment, either before or after hiring, which would require the workplace to be a closed shop.”

      Apparently if a Union isn’t allowed to make payment of dues a requirement for employment, then employers have the ability to fire anyone.

      • Bagok

        “Right to work” workers have no right to employment, and employed workers have no right to continued employment (beyond anti-discrimination laws). Having been employed in “right to work” states my entire professional career, the contracts I have signed have all the same language; Employment is a consensual agreement between the company and the employee that may be terminated at anytime by either party.

        The goal of “right to work” is to marginalize unions by eliminating funding and participation. Bankrupt unions don’t donate money to Democratic candidates and they don’t “Get Out The Vote”. I know “Eliminate unions for the good of the Republican party” doesn’t play as well as “right to work” but can’t we be honest here?