Omaha, Neb. -- State Rep. Gary Glenn, R-Midland, Friday was named recipient of the Senator Everett M. Dirksen Award, the highest honor bestowed annually by the National Right to Work Committee to an individual "making the most outstanding contribution to public awareness and understanding of the Right to Work principle."
The 60-year old civil rights organization is committed to ending job discrimination based on union affiliation by protecting the rights of all Americans to hold a job without being forced to join or pay dues to a labor union. Its annual award is named after the Republican Minority Leader from Illinois who in 1966 led a filibuster in the U.S. Senate that blocked President Lyndon B. Johnson's effort to repeal the section of federal law that empowers states to enact Right to Work legislation. Twenty-five states -- including Michigan and Indiana in 2012 and, just last month, Wisconsin -- have enacted laws prohibiting compulsory unionism as a condition of employment.
Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts was on hand as National Right to Work Committee President Mark Mix presented the award to Glenn during the organization's annual board meeting and banquet at the Magnolia Hotel Omaha.
"Given his leadership and contributions to the Right to Work movement over the last nearly four decades, this award has been a long time coming," Mix said. "It could have been given 30 years ago for his leadership in Idaho, or three years ago for his leadership in Michigan, or any time in between, but we are certainly proud to present it today to now state Rep. Gary Glenn."
In accepting the award, Glenn said he first read about the Right to Work principle as a senior in high school -- in a Reader's Digest article about union violence that led to the law's passage in Louisiana in 1976 -- "and I distinctly remember thinking to myself, 'Somebody should be out there doing something about that issue.' Two years later, I was that 'somebody,' and it has been an honor, a privilege, and a passion in the decades since to have had the opportunity to stand for that fundamental freedom and jobs principle."
Glenn was hired by the Idaho Freedom to Work Committee while still in college, became its executive director in 1980, and directed aggressive voter education efforts that resulted in the election of a veto-proof Republican legislature that overrode a Democratic governor's veto to enact Right to Work 1985. He then served as the leader and primary spokesman for a 1986 ballot campaign that won voter approval for keeping the law in place, despite being outspent three-to-one by Big Labor.
He also organized support for the issue in the 1970s and 80s in Delaware, New Mexico, and Oklahoma, the latter of which finally enacted the law in 2001. In 1983, Glenn also worked one year in Washington, D.C., as a Congressional lobbyist for the National Right to Work Committee, and in 1985, he led a team of Right to Work operatives who succeeded in blocking repeal of Louisiana's workplace freedom law by the state House after repeal legislation had already passed the Senate.
Glenn in 2011 was a founding board member of the Michigan Freedom to Work coalition, which launched the effort that led to enactment of Michigan's ban on compulsory unionism in December 2012. The law took effect in March 2013, and in its first full year as a Right to Work state, Michigan led the nation with 24,900 new manufacturing jobs. Indiana, which enacted Right to Work the same year, ranked second in the nation.
Past recipients of the Dirksen Award include the late Oscar-winning actor Charlton Heston of St. Helen, Michigan, former president of the Screen Actors Guild, AFL-CIO, who worked with Glenn in winning passage of Idaho's Right to Work law; former San Diego Chargers quarterback Dan Fouts; four U.S. senators including, most recently, former Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C.; four congressmen including Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas; and rank and file union members such as the 2013 honoree, United Auto Workers union member Terry Bowman of Ypsilanti, founder of Union Conservatives and a key leader in the successful effort to enact Michigan's Right to Work law.
This is the second Right to Work-related award Glenn has shared with Heston. In 1987, for their leadership of efforts to enact Right to Work in Idaho, they were named co-recipients of the Freedom Fighter of the Year Award by the Center for the Study of Market Alternatives, a free market think tank based at the College of Idaho and led by former Northwood University economics professor Larry Reed, who later returned to Midland to serve as the first president of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. MCPP recruited Glenn to move to Midland in 1998 because of his history of leadership on the Right to Work issue.
Glenn, who was elected to the state House of Representatives last November, is currently sponsoring legislation to extend Right to Work protections to public safety employees who were not covered by the original law in 2012, while providing that government sector unions in the future will represent and bargain only for employees who voluntarily join and pay dues.
"If Michigan is going to truly be a Right to Work state," the Grand Haven Tribune wrote in an April 22nd editorial endorsing Glenn's legislation, "all workers should have the option to not join a union in order to work in their chosen profession. ...We urge state lawmakers to consider (Rep. Glenn's) proposed House bills and decide to include police officers and firefighters in the Right to Work law, as well as do the right thing and not obligate unions to represent nonmembers."
Photo -- Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts, left, with state Rep. Gary Glenn, R-Midland, after Ricketts keynoted the National Right to Work Committee board of directors' annual banquet at which Glenn received the civil rights group's highest national honor, the Senator Everett M. Dirksen Award.