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Sun Jun 16, 2019, 03:52 AM

Organizing the South

The Southern United States has always been averse to the idea of unionized workforces. At its core, much of that is born out of the agrarian history of the region. From the nation’s inception, the South has been an economy driven by agriculture.

In fact, the “peculiar institution” of slavery allowed the South to compete with the manufacturing base of the Northeast. While lowering costs of labor in the 19th century, and apart from its obviously wicked treatment of human beings as disposable tools, the practice has repercussions in the region that reverberate today. The nature of vocations in the region did not require extensive education; that is not to diminish the difficulty of the work, but working in textile mills or operating farm equipment are better learned by practical experience than in classrooms.

The region began making inroads into varied forms of work by the early 20th century. In a recent Wall Street Journal article examining the recent decline of the South, Seth Herald writes:

Rural Adams County in the southwest corner of Mississippi exemplifies the typical story of the South’s rise and fall. It once attracted thousands of higher-paid factory jobs, particularly in the 1930s, when a big tire and rubber plant arrived. But the major factories began closing in the 2000s; the tire plant shut down in 2001. “Friends and family that have been here for 20 years…were packing up and leaving,” says Chandler Russ, who grew up in Adams.

The income gains the county notched against the rest of the country from the 1950s to the 2000s have completely reversed.

The county population peaked in 1982 at 39,172, and has declined about 20% since. Factory jobs, 18.5% of the county’s total in 1992, were just 5% in 2017. Per capita income is now 56.8% of the national average.

Wall Street Journal

The refrain heard throughout the region during its growth in the 20th century remains today: lower taxes will draw businesses to the region. Of course, in many ways this has worked. Companies from the Midwest and Northeast relocated or opened new locations in the South, capitalizing on both the lower costs of living and tax burdens.

Read more: https://www.politicsnc.com/organizing-the-south/

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