Wisconsin election update: Blog post from 1956 documents bullying union tactics

Massive crowds of Wisconsin union protesters. Collective bargaining rights being challenged by right-to-work laws. Union picketing of private homes. Paint bombs. Bullying. Alinskyite tactics. All of this and more is documented in a blog post about the situation in Wisconsin regarding the gubernatorial election and controversial union demands.


Except there’s one very peculiar twist: The blog post is dated April 17, 1956.

Or at least it would have been a blog post, except that back in the ’50s there were no blogs, no Internet. If you wanted to disseminate coverage of unreported political outrages, you had to publish a printed pamphlet and distribute it by hand. Which is is exactly what Herbert Kohler, President of Kohler Co., did in 1956 after he personally witnessed the violent bullying tactics of Wisconsin unions.

I recently discovered this now ultra-rare pamphlet for 25¢ in the “ephemera” section of a local white elephant sale in Oakland. But its contents were so modern-seeming and so relevant to the recall election of Scott Walker happening right now in Wisconsin that it seemed as if it was a blog post written yesterday. The issues, tactics and warring sides are almost exactly the same today as they were 56 years ago. I was so amazed by what I read that I decided to take this April 17, 1956 blog post and finally put it on the Internet.

Why? Because the voters of Wisconsin need to know that this drive by Wisconsin unions to control the employment market and the levers of political power has been going on for an extremely long time; the upheaval that has wracked Wisconsin since Scott Walker first won the nomination to run for governor in 2010 is just the latest battle in a decades-long war.

At the conclusion of this post you will find high-resolution scans of each page from the short pamphlet entitled In Freedom’s Cause: The Menace of UAW-CIO Coercion, by Herbert Kohler. But first, a short explanatory introduction.


In Freedom’s Cause: The Menace of UAW-CIO Coercion

From the 1930s through the late ’60s, Herbert Kohler was the president of Kohler Co., a major plumbing and household supplies manufacturer headquartered in Wisconsin and founded in the 19th century by his immigrant father, John Michael Kohler. In 1954, the UAW tried to unionize all the employees at the Kohler factory, despite the fact that they were already among the best-compensated manual laborers in the state. The UAW played hardball in contract negotiations with Kohler management, and at first won some wage-hikes. But when Kohler resisted additional demands, the UAW ordered a massive strike against Kohler, and things started to get ugly.

The 1954 UAW action is now known as “The Kohler Strike” and is considered one of the most contentious and violent in American history:

Six years of sporadic violence ensued between strikers and strike breakers. In time, the company would charge opponents with more than a thousand acts of vandalism. At one point, more than 300 people were arrested. Calls for a national boycott of Kohler products were vociferous and sometimes effective. Strikers were able to continue their often violent activities because of some $12 million provided by the UAW.

The strike lasted for six years, until 1960, and was not fully resolved until 1965, with a partial victory for the UAW, after the National Labor Relations Board mostly sided with the union (as it almost always does). But Kohler Co. successfuly resisted efforts by the union to take over the corporation, and survived the boycotts, and to this day remains privately owned and very profitable.


In the middle of all this, Herbert Kohler went on a speaking tour around the country trying to warn people about the hyper-aggressive Wisconsin union political tactics and what it meant for American freedom overall. His stump speech was then typed up and supplemented with photographs documenting some of the union behavior, and it was turned into a smal pamphlet entitled In Freedom’s Cause: The Menace of UAW-CIO Coercion, which you can read in its entirety below.

Interestingly, many of the union tactics descibed and documented by Kohler are what would now be called “Alinskyite” tactics. But this is no accident: Saul Alinsky himself said that he learned the ins-and-outs of in-your-face “community organizing” by working with brutal CIO union enforcers in Chicago early in his career.

When reading the 1956 pamphlet, keep in mind its relevance to the 2012 gubernatorial recall election, coming up on June 5. The exact same issues which drove the union-initiated recall and underlie the left’s hatred of governor Scott Walker — collective bargaining, right-to-work laws, union pensions, and so forth — were what spurred the Kohler Strike in the 1950s.

Your vote and your sympathy, now as then, hinge on one question: How much power do you want to grant the unions? And will they bankrupt the state, as they tried to bankrupt Kohler, given a chance?


Here are a few short excerpts from the pamphlet, with transcriptions:

“The greatest power of coercion is latent in the government. Through its “political action” program, the union seeks to take over this power and use it to its own ends.”


“The Class Struggle — The promotion of class hatred and class warfare aids only those who would supplant our economy with a socialist economy. Union leaders who convince the workman that his employer is his natural enemy — that his interests call for ‘militancy’ and constant conflict — serve only the Marxian doctrine.”

“Are unions entitled to engage in violent, coercive and illegal conduct to enforce their demands?
This is the issue we have been facing at Kohler the past two years.
That is the issue that faces the American public.”

“The principal demand was for some form of ‘union shop’ — i.e., compulsory unionism.

It is our belief that the company has no more right to force an employee to join a union to get or hold a job than it has to prohibit his joining a union.

Kohler Co. is opposed to any form of compulsory unionism.

The widespread public support of our position in this respect has caused the union to drop this demand temporarily.
But, and make no mistake about it, this issue is never abandoned. The UAW-CIO is as violently opposed as ever to ‘right-to-work laws’.”

“The UAW-CIO did not come to Kohler with the high purpose of protecting down-trodden workingmen. They came to a company where physical working conditions are exemplary, where real wages had been maintained and earnings were high, to a field which appeared ripe for a harvest of dues.”

“The fact is you can never settle with this union except on their terms. You meet their demands exactly, or else.”


“Then began the picketing of homes of non-strikers. Mobs of hundreds of strikers and sympathizers, howling and hooting, threatened non-striking employees and their families. This was finally stopped by an injunction.

There have been more than 800 incidents of violence and vandalism away from the picket lines. These included gunshot blasts into homes, dynamiting of automobiles and buildings, paint bombings, window smashing, tire slashings, the throwing of acid onto automobiles and inside houses.”

Full-page scans

Below you will find full-page scans of the entirety of In Freedom’s Cause: The Menace of UAW-CIO Coercion. Click on each image to see it in high resolution.

And don’t forget to vote on June 5!


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