YOUR LETTERS: The South has something to say about Labor organizing

Right now, it feels like the eyes of the world are fixed squarely on the American South. And for good reason — while we’re witnessing a monumental and era-defining shift in worker power across all parts of the country, some of the most inspiring victories are coming out of the Southern states.

From workers in the automotive and bus manufacturing industries to those who work in fast food or at hospitals—along with so many other sectors of the economy — Southerners are organizing at breakneck speed to join unions, something that a lot of people never imagined could happen even a decade ago. These stories are so compelling, in part because many have written off the South as a lost cause for working people wanting to stand together.

In a 2019 study, the AFL-CIO found that even European-based companies with good records on Labor rights in their home countries take advantage of workers they employ in the American South because those workers have so few protections. One of the reverberating legacies of Jim Crow we still see so clearly today is the suppression of Labor Organizing, which aimed to build an economy based on racial division and cheap labor. This laid the groundwork for modern businesses to get away with paying low wages while the local lawmakers they bankroll enact more and more legislation to keep the working class divided and impoverished.

The lesson in this is that low union membership density isn’t a fixed, inherent characteristic of the South — it is an intentional creation by the rich and powerful, with roots dating back generations. This also means working people have the ability to change those uneven power dynamics at any point. And that’s exactly what we’re witnessing now.

Southern workers are uniting across race, gender, generation and creed to build a new future for themselves and their families. With every momentous organizing victory, these working people are letting the world know that they refuse to be exploited, overlooked or disregarded, and that they are ready to unite for the wages and respect they are rightfully owed. The South has something to say, and it’s damn time everyone else listened up.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top