Longtime Right-to-Work Leader Reed Larson Mourned

Reed Larson, who established the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation in 1968 and was its leader until 2003, and headed the National Right to Work Committee from 1959 until 2003, passed away peacefully late in the evening on Saturday, September 17.

In 1954, Reed Larson went on “temporary leave” from his job as an engineer in Wichita to lead the fight to pass a Right to Work law in Kansas. The effort suffered a serious setback the following year, when Gov. Fred Hall broke his campaign pledge by vetoing Right to Work. But this move quickly ended Hall’s political career, and Larson and the thousands of other freedom-loving Kansans he had mobilized didn’t give up. In November 1958, the state’s Right to Work law was finally adopted.

Early the following year, on the basis of his accomplishments in Kansas, Larson was offered the leadership job of executive vice president with the National Right to Work Committee. He accepted. At the time, the then-four-year-old organization had just 20,000 members. By the time Larson stepped down from the presidency, the Committee had 2.2 million members. Today membership stands at 2.8 million.

At the state level, under Larson’s watch the Committee assisted successful efforts to pass new Right to Work laws in four states and played a key role in stymieing dozens of full-scale bids by Big Labor to repeal existing Right to Work laws. At the federal level, the Committee scored a “must-win” victory in 1965-66 over Organized Labor’s Capitol Hill campaign to eviscerate all state Right to Work laws through repeal of Taft-Hartley Section 14(b).

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