Singing the 'Right-to-Work Blues': The Politics of Race in the Campaign for 'Voluntary Unionism' in Post-War California

The Right and Labor in America: Politics, Ideology, and Imagination 139 (Nelson Lichtenstein & Elizabeth Tandy Shermer eds., Univ. of Pennsylvania Press 2012).

UC Hastings Research Paper No. 2012-01

Posted: 7 Nov 2014

Date Written: January 1, 2012

Abstract

This article tells the story of the failed attempt to pass a right-to-work proposition in California in 1958. In particular, it shows how right-to-work activists attempted to persuade African Americans to vote in favor of the proposition by portraying it as a fair employment practices measure. Because many California labor unions engaged in discriminatory practices, anti-union forces within the state thought they could tap into the hostility that many African Americans felt towards the labor movement. This strategy was unsuccessful. African Americans voted against the right-to-work proposition in overwhelming numbers. Nevertheless, the campaign exacerbated tensions in the tenuous political alliance between labor and the African American community. In the years that followed the proposition’s defeat, these tensions would undermine the political power of the labor movement, the African American community, and the Democratic Party.

Suggested Citation

Schiller, Reuel, Singing the 'Right-to-Work Blues': The Politics of Race in the Campaign for 'Voluntary Unionism' in Post-War California (January 1, 2012). The Right and Labor in America: Politics, Ideology, and Imagination 139 (Nelson Lichtenstein & Elizabeth Tandy Shermer eds., Univ. of Pennsylvania Press 2012)., UC Hastings Research Paper No. 2012-01, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2519769

Reuel Schiller (Contact Author)

UC Hastings Law ( email )

200 McAllister Street
San Francisco, CA 94102
United States

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