GOP Didn't Always Fight Organized Labor
As we watch Republican legislators and governors in Wisconsin, Ohio and Indiana attempt to navigate showdowns in which they find themselves at odds with labor unions, it behooves one to know that the GOP's stance on unions has not always been this way. As found in the American Presidency Project, the 1952 GOP platform made several guarantees to labor. Labor unions had the right to establish a 'union shop', the right to strike, and the right to free collective bargaining.
The 1952 platform even opposed Pres. Truman's "seizure of plants and industries to force the settlement of labor disputes by claims of inherent Constitutional powers." Part of the advocation of union protection by the GOP may have been aimed as a political attack on the Truman administration for how it handled the US Steel strike, but the 1956 platform also reinforced union rights during the Eisenhower administration.
The relationship between unions and the GOP was not as strong as it was for Democrats but the aggressive anti-union rhetoric in the party platform was not wholly there. What changed? The transformation and entrance of Ronald Reagan fundamentally altered the GOP's relationship with unions. Long before the breaking of PATCO, Reagan campaigned first as the spokesperson for GE around the country then second as a celebrity, and he gave his 'Time for Choosing' or 'The Speech' as many Republicans call it.
On October 27th, 1964, Reagan gave a rousing speech that became the framework for the GOP. He argued for individualism, less government, and the private sector. He linked the size of the federal government to costing "constitutional safeguards." 'Time for Choosing' was monumental moment for Reagan's career and helped launch him to the California governorship and eventually the White House.