This is a concise yet wide ranging and accessible synthesis of the experience of southern workers between World War II and the present, and it links its discussion to important debates in the field of southern history today.
Timothy Minchin brings the story of southern labor up to date and places the workers' own experiences in the forefront of his account. He considers the central question of whether the modern South is still distinctive, arguing that the region's lower wages, lower rates of unionization, and legacy of racial segregation continue to set it apart. He stresses that southern workers have a rich history of labor activism, despite the fact that establishing lasting unionism in the region has been difficult.
Drawing on a broad knowledge of primary sources and his own extensive archive of more than 200 interviews with southern workers, Minchin offers an overview of the past 70 years of southern labor history in combination with a lively and intimate sense of the human experience of the period. His oral histories include the voices of men and women, both black and white, and offer their insights not just on the workplace but also on their living conditions, political activities, and race relations.
The book explores the experience of recent Latino migrants to the south and covers topical issues such as the decline of the textile industry, the catastrophic 1991 fire at a chicken processing plant in North Carolina that killed 25 workers, and high profile union efforts to organize Nissan's large factory in Smyrna, Tennessee. It also looks at patterns of economic change in the 20th century South, such as the rise of the Sunbelt and the shift to a service based economy.
For all historians, students, and general readers interested in contemporary American events, this work offers a readable and much needed discussion of the field of modern southern labor history.