32 Lab. Stud. J. 5 (2007)

handle is hein.journals/labstuj32 and id is 1 raw text is: 





                                                                    Mah2 007 5-22
                                                                       2007' UALE
                                                             10.11 -7/0160449X062918884
Cowboy Campaigning
                                                                          hosted at
Patriotism, Freedom, and

Right-to-Work in Oklahoma

Judith L. King
University of Alabama at Birmingham
Laurel C. Catlett-King


   The 2001 right-to-work referendum in Oklahoma provided unique challenges for the
   labor movement. This article examines the Oklahoma campaign in the context of right-
   to-work and other labor referendums and discusses the consequences of particular
   strategies used by the labor and business campaigns. The authors argue that despite a
   strong member mobilization campaign, the impact of September 11 and the influence
   of the print media may have been determining factors in the campaign.

   Keywords: political campaigns; union security; right-to-work



R   eferendums  are troublesome for the labor movement. It is rarely labor that calls
    for an issue to be placed on the ballot; more likely, labor must draw on limited
stores of activist energy and union treasuries to defend itself against attacks on union
security provisions or worker rights. The labor movement must educate and mobi-
lize its own members  while trying to win over  indifferent or confused voters.
Political and business opponents usually have better access to the money and media
needed to wage long and heated campaigns.
   Yet, labor wins many of these referendums: right-to-work in Missouri in 1978,
prevailing wage in Massachusetts in 1988, and paycheck protection in California
in 1998 and 2005. There were successful models at hand on September 25, 2001,
when  Oklahoma  unionists faced their referendum battle to hold off right-to-work.
Oklahoma  labor leaders knew that business was united, strong, and well financed.
They knew  they would get little support from the media. They knew they would start
off behind in the polls. They knew they would  have to make  sure every union
member  was registered to vote. They knew that their campaign would require mil-
lions of dollars. It would be an uphill fight, but it was winnable.
   But the Oklahoma campaign  was not like those in Missouri or Massachusetts or
California. Cultural values became part of the attack. The print media played a
much  larger role than might be expected in this era of electronic communication.
And  then came September  11. In an odd twist of fate, Oklahoma labor may have
become  the first political casualty in the nation's war on terror.


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