Let me remind you, I'm a union man. I've belonged to three unions most of my life, served as president of one and helped found a fourth. I'm proud of that. I'm not proud of the AFL-CIO's preemption of its members' free political choice. I don't think Samuel Gompers, the father of the labor movement in this country, would be either.
In your piece on the AFL-CIO's campaign to overturn the right to work law in Idaho, ("Right to Work Battle Heats Up in Idaho," Sept. 24 column by Harry Bernstein), you challenge this.
When you phoned me the other day, you seemed skeptical that Gompers had really said, "No gain can come from compulsion." Today you conceded the quote was accurate. (It was in fact his last public statement, on the day he died, and is inscribed on the base of his statue in Washington.)
But you cite a historian who told you that he didn't really mean that. You don't say why, just that Gompers couldn't have been in favor of right to work laws. Let me enlighten you. In December, 1918, in a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations, he said: "There may be here and there a worker who for reasons unexplainable to us does not join a union. This is his right, no matter how morally wrong he may be. It is his legal right and no one can, or dare, question his exercise of that right."