Longtime Right to Work Leader Reed Larson Mourned

National Right To Work Legal Defense Foundation news release:

Longtime Right to Work Leader Reed Larson Mourned

With former Kansas engineer at the helm, membership of citizen group formed to oppose compulsory unionism grew from fewer than 20,000 to 2.2 million

Seattle, WA (September 19, 2016) – 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.  His beloved wife, the former Jeanne Hess, had passed away in 2010.  Larson is survived by their three daughters, and by nine grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren.reed-larson-0029

Mark Mix, who took over the presidency of both organizations in 2003, even as Larson continued to fight for the Right to Work cause, serving as executive committee chairman of the Foundation and the Committee for several years, reflected on the passing of Larson, who was 93:

“It is a loss in that we find ourselves a bit empty knowing that a man who developed, expanded, and guided the very organizations we have the privilege of working for is gone.  There is peace in knowing that Reed lived a full, fruitful and successful life.  And I know he is at peace and in a place that has been prepared for him by his personal Savior.”

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).

Among the other key defensive victories for Right to Work were the defeats of so-called “common situs picketing” legislation designed to corral independent construction employees into unions (1975-77) and legislation to bar employers from offering permanent jobs to workers hired during strikes (1991-94).

Meanwhile, the Foundation’s efforts to defend the First Amendment rights of independent-minded employees bore fruit with incremental U.S. Supreme Court victories such Ellis v. Brotherhood of Railway, Airline and Steamship Clerks (1984), Chicago Teachers Union v. Hudson (1986) and Communications Workers of America v. Beck (1988).  Respectively, these decisions empowered transportation, public, and a wide range of private-sector employees to withhold forced-dues payments for all activities unrelated to collective bargaining.

“Government-authorized forced unionism continues to do enormous damage, both to individual workers and to the country.  But under Reed Larson’s leadership, the Committee and the Foundation began to roll back the damage,” said Mr. Mix.

“Just since the beginning of 2012, an additional four states have adopted Right to Work laws.  By staying the course and continuing to fight forced unionism head on, just as Reed taught us to do, Right to Work forces will ultimately achieve a total victory. I’m confident of that.”


The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation is a nonprofit, charitable organization providing free legal aid to employees whose human or civil rights have been violated by compulsory unionism abuses.  The Foundation, which can be contacted toll-free at 1-800-336-3600, is assisting thousands of employees in nearly 200 cases nationwide. Its web address is www.nrtw.org.