thumbnail of The Roots of Racial Conflict in the South; No. 3; Southern Labor and Civil Rights
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And I think the problem is that the labor movement is probably like the church in most of the established institutions and organizations now that they want to play it safe. And I think a lot of are officials in the labor movement are afraid of antagonizing a lot of Southern white workers. This is seem to be one of the problems in terms. I haven't done a thorough investigation. I have had conversations and comments with people as they move this thing to be the problems that they're worried about alienating the white workers. And of course, not no real effort has been made on the part of the Negro leaders and the labor movement to really have a joint effort. And Birmingham, I don't think any place else in the south either that in the opinion of the Reverend James Bevel, the principal figure in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, is Southern Labor's position in the struggle for racial justice that preoccupies America today.
People's attitude, valid or not, is characteristic of the way most leaders and participants in the civil rights movement regard organized labor in the South. As a result of demonstrations, Negro leaders, for instance, in Birmingham, Alabama, have been joined by local businessmen and employer groups and working up processes of integration, a major phase of which lies deep in the area of Labor's interest and responsibility that favors equal job opportunity. It is perhaps the most basic of all such efforts and one that faces the greatest difficulty all across the south. We spoke of this matter with the Reverend Edward Gardner, one of the members of Birmingham's Negro negotiating team. Reverend Gardner, what is the the argument of the employers with respect to a large scale upgrading of Negroes and the increased hiring
of Negroes? What what is their biggest problem as they present it to you? Their problem they had presented to us that they own a union contract and they would attempt to go around their agreement with the union. It will lead to a shutdown of their plant. And for that cause, they leave this matter entirely in the hands of a union representative. And we have invited these union heads to be babies meeting, but it seems like it's hard to get these men to the meeting for fear they might be put on the spot. You haven't gotten any any union leaders at all to the meeting at all. Why do you think this is all? I think. I guess the union representatives, Fredo, repercussion from inside of his organization
and all that, cause he don't want to be put on the spot and we can't get him to a meeting because the employer said this is a matter that is entirely in the hands of the labor leaders. Their contract, they leave it entirely in their hands as it upgrading. Why do you think that's so? Well, I I couldn't I couldn't say, therefore, that this is concrete because the Labor leader has never been on the scene. And again, him face to face. So you kind of leave the thing one sided until we get both of them together. As to the lack of communication between Birmingham labor and the Niekro movement, there would seem to be little room for argument with Gardner's statement. However, the employers charge that hiring practices are in the hands of the unions is somewhat more controversial. We took this question to Barny Weeks, president of the Alabama Labor Council
of the AFL CIO. There's no truth whatsoever to this in Alabama. Alabama's a right to work states. We have almost no control over hiring practices in Alabama. If we did, we'd be in violation of the law. We cannot insist that the employer, her only union members, he goes out and harass who have he pleases except us to organize. And when he gets through and by the same token, under the same law, we cannot insist that he have all the white members or they did not hire a negro to local contracts. Make any stipulation as to procedures of promotion. Quite a few of them do. And where they do, where where they did. And it was discriminatory to the Negro. I believe you'll find that all of these contracts have been revised in line with within a national policy. So that to your knowledge, there would be no basis for such a charge or defense, however you want to look at it.
Not in the contract. There he is, opposition, of course, and there will remain opposition on the part of some members and efforts to discriminate. But the officers and the international and the state council and the national AFLCIO all have discouraged this and have attempted to remove this where it cropped up. Have local labor organizations here in Birmingham been active in the in the most recent civil rights movement here? Have they been participants in the negotiations that have been underway? Not they have not been out in the forefront. They have been active behind the scenes and contributed what they could in the Deep South and in Alabama, particularly the extremist organizations such as a Klan, Susan Council, the John Birch Society and all the other fanatic groups have put tremendous pressure on anybody who speaks out.
You are harassed by bottles being thrown on your porch by insulting telephone calls day and night, which means that people who are liberal, whether they be in a committee of 100 of the Chamber of Commerce or whether it be in the the parent teachers organizations or whether they are in the labor organization, they must attempt to work quietly behind the scenes if they are to be effective. Barney Weeks as one of Birmingham's foremost liberals. His phone rings constantly with crank calls and anonymous threats in response to stance he has taken on a score of issues. But like many of the fellow labor leaders, any support of the Negro movement must remain pretty much the individual generally behind the scenes affair of the private citizen. As a private citizen, for instance, weeks. has accepted a position on Birmingham's bi racial council. But as union officers, such men are bound by the limitations of elected leaders
of essentially democratic organizations. A problem that does not hobble most employers off the record. One Labor leader explained the situation this way as private citizens. The Labor leadership is much more liberal on the race question than the employers. The disgusting thing about all this is that where we have been working for years to try to educate our membership and change their attitudes about race as it taxes, union affairs, the employers, the same ones who made this agreement have been fighting us all the way. They used the race issue to fight organization. They right now will go into these sessions and agree with Negro leaders to hire and upgrade Negroes and then go right out afterwards and tell white workers they shouldn't join the union because it will mean Negroes will get their jobs. The labor stance toward the movement is a difficult, complex and essentially political affair. Most of the AFLCIO locals answering for the majority of the
better paid, more highly skilled jobs in these areas are dominantly white and their official position reflects this racial character. The steelworkers, for instance, have a racial composition of 70 percent white and 30 percent Negro. Like most locals belonging to nationwide organizations, they profess to treat union members of both races on the basis of strict equality. Like most such locals, their union halls still have segregated facilities. The Steelworkers regional director, Ari Far spoke with us about general union matters, but declined categorically to address himself to any questions pertaining to race. Mr. Farr's attitude was quite representative of other leaders of local labor organizations similarly constituted. Including the Teamsters, for most of them, the racial issue was pure political dynamite in their circles, race like incest,
is simply a topic no gentleman would broach. Not publicly anyhow, and least of all for publication. Somewhat more difficult to understand is the position of a union like the hod carriers and common laborers, which breaks down seventy five to twenty five, this time in a negro to white ratio. We interviewed the Laborers local business agent in Birmingham, OJ Reynolds, a white man on his union's response to the civil rights movement. Does your organization have any sort of a policy with respect to this question outside of its own activities? No, we do not. We do not participate in any way, shape or form or fashion. Mr. Reynolds, would you venture a guess as to the extent of interest or participation and the civil rights question
among your own membership, among the Negro members of your local? I don't think it has been too much one way or the other. People most just want to be left alone so that they can make their way in the way that they want to make it. They have no course. We've had both pro and con as far as the movement is concerned. Some are for it and some are against it. Some, but the majority just wants to want to be left alone to make their way for their sounds. The majority, then, you would say, are probably not too happy about such things as demonstrations, and we're not too interested. We'll put it that way. I don't think they're too interested in demonstrations of one phase or another. They just want to be left alone so they make a living. You were saying before that this is about the third
flare up that Birmingham has had. But you say there's no there's been no trouble caused at all for the for the laborers union because of it. Not this time, no. Has there before we have actually in the past been asked to send all white rather than colored or white, whichever they would want. But this time we haven't had that. It seems to me that people are more awake to the fact that we've got to live with this thing and they're satisfied with it. I wouldn't think that they would be very much trouble from any group. Most of our people just want to be left alone so that they can make a living. The majority of our people have been quiet
on the issue. Few of them have talked about it both ways. Some are for it, some few are against it. Some say that it's going to the Negro. A lot of trouble. Others seem to think it's an advancement for it. So far as we're concerned, we don't care one way or the other. You don't take any. None whatsoever. That's their baby. What is what is a total membership of the approximate fourteen hundred and fourteen hundred local here in Birmingham? Right. And what of the state membership? Do you have any idea the interstate membership. What percentage? My local union has as far as the states concerned. What is the total of the total membership of the labor state of Alabama. I would say something like thirty five hundred. M.C. Anderson, regional director of the mine milen smelter workers
thought rather differently about the Negro workers attitude toward the movement. Mine milen smelter in the states of Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi. As a Negro membership, that varies between 80 to 100 percent. It should be added, however, that its total membership in these states is less than 4000. The average worker having hasn't been able to to leave his job and participate in the demonstration. But I'd say through the influence because it had to have the cooperation of the average worker and they and his wife or his children could not have participated in the demonstration because the demonstrations that went on in Birmingham for more days, children and others,
both high school and grammar school, participated in this demonstration. And you know that all the Negroes that children participate could not have been up on the top bracket, had to be down among the workers. So the worker himself possibly couldn't have left his job participate. But hey, hey, who is it? Floods. Tuohys, let's say he and he had talked, worked and cooperated and he told his children to participate. Did you think? Well, I understand it's often happened the other way around. Beg your pardon? I understand it's often happened the other way around. The children taught their parents to participate. Well, not many days. They is, so I'd say. But it's a minority that were their parents
was not to participate and and were let's say they slow down and get into the movement, but and the children got ahead. Mr. Andersen, could you tell us what policy, if any, the MINDMELD smelter workers have toward the racial question, toward the civil rights movement in particular outside of their organization on day to day affairs? Well, we cooperate in every way possible when called upon morally, financially and in every way that we can make a contribution. You do have a positive policy towards the Civil
Rights Act. Right? That's right. And and in fact, the vise president of our Energy International Union is president of the Best PMR Voters League here in Bessemer. And he's also president of the whole entire Jefferson County voters. In other words, it says voter's registration movement. And he was as Howard Hayes. And he's a Negro. And he at present is the only Negro bash president of any labor union in this whole United States.
And the larger organizations support for civil rights and employment comes from the outside and the top from international offices in the north and west. And the officials of regional as opposed to local organizations, probably the most important back are presently those of the Southern Labor School operated by the AFL CIO, the Council on Political Education, whose activities Mr Weeks explained to us the 13 Southern State Councils organize and sponsor the Southern Labor School. We have a one week long basic school for local union offices, presidents, business agents and so forth. And then later in the year we have an advanced school for the State Council offices themselves. This has been Hill now since 1951. Each year since 1951.
And just what is the nature of this school? What is its purpose? Lee School is to better prepare the local union offices for their job. We hold conferences in which we plan a program on economics, on civil rights, on how to run a union meeting, on jobs during training. And most of the other problems which the local union officers face in their community and in their local. Have you concentrated a good deal on the civil rights problem in recent years? We have put a major emphasis on civil rights. Ever since the Supreme Court decision on desegregation of schools. You were telling me before we began recording about some difficulties you had holding these conferences in the state of Alabama. Just what are they? Well, of course, the AFL CIO position is that no
meeting or a conference will be held where the conference is not open to all our members. We represent both Negro and white, as well as a real cross-section of the community, from the school teacher to the hotel. Waitress and the common laborer to the airline pilot. And these conferences must be open to any and all of them without any discrimination. There are no hotels or colleges in the state of Alabama that make their facilities equally available to Negro and white people. For the past several years, we've had to go out of the state to hold these conferences. We held a couple of them at Scared College in Nashville, Tennessee. The Board of Education of the Methodist Church that controls this college denied us the use of this when they found this was a labor organization. So for the past two years, we've held the Southern Labor School at
the Mountain View Hotel and Gatlinburg, Tennessee. There, the Negro members, as well as the white members, are housed in the hotel. They're fed in the cafeteria without any discrimination at all. And at that time, we go in to very thoroughly the whole civil rights picture and show our members and our leaders how the conservatives and the Black Belters and Alabama have tied the civil rights issue to the economic issue and how they've kept quiet and Negro members down. By doing this, could you perhaps explain to us just how this is done? It has been done in the past. Well, employer is almost completely under the control of the employer rather than the union. We organize these people that the employer hires them.
And of course, they first heard some Negro members and our unions in earlier days would not take the Negroes and the membership. So they kept the plant unorganized by hiring these. Later on, we started organizing these people. And when we attempted to, they tell the Negro member that if you join, you'll be in a white local was white officers and they will discriminate against you. They told the white members that if you join, you'll have a Negro president, a Negro officer. And they tried to build up the idea that the Negro is worth less per hour than a white member. And if the white member buys less than they just hire more Negro members and keep your wage scale down. We talk to David Powell, director of Cope's area five, covering most of the southern area about the background of this connection
between labor and race in the south. Of course, ever since the civil war in the south, the ruling class and the plantation owners in the south after the war found themselves bankrupt in the face with a real possibility of a unity between white southerners, white, low income, white southerners, negroes. And they have used the race issue successfully since that time to keep the white working man in the South and the Negro from politically uniting. Both groups, of course, and the same common economic interest. We saw it particularly in the populist movement. We saw the racial issue raised in Alabama to divide the populist movement and defeat the populist movement. Then we saw the racial issue used in Georgia
and South Carolina. The Baptist movement North Carolina was another example of where the racial issue was used to finally defeat and destroy the populist. And of course, it is being used today to divide the working people of the South politically. And so long as it is successful, why the demagogs will remain in power in the 1950 senatorial campaign in Florida between Claude Pepper and George Smathers. The racial issue was used against some of the people. One case was in St. Augustine, Florida, where the Florida East Coast Railroad had its shops. The opponents of Pepper went into the Florida East Coast railroad shops in St. Augustine, which at that time was about,
I suppose, 90 percent white. And they told the workers there that people who had voted for their VPC and that if he were reelected to the Senate, he would vote again. And if ABC and if anything, P.C., when acted in the Senate, that Negroes would be employed in these railroad shops proportionate to their population in the county. And that would mean that that white workers would be displaced in the Florida East Coast, railroad shops for Negroes. Now, in Atlanta, Georgia, was a congressman. They have the name of James C. Davis fighting there was defeated in nineteen sixty two, but since nineteen forty eight he stayed in office. He voted against everything that the working people of Georgia wanted. Yet at election time, he always raised a race issue.
He made it appear that the Negroes were going to take over Georgia if he wasn't reelected to Congress and take over the jobs and that white workers were holding there. And he got it. He was able to get an amazing number of votes from white working people whose interest he consistently opposed and the Congress of the United States. Now, this is repeated all over the South. Congressmen who vote against all economic advancement for workers, vote against Social Security programs, vote against medical care for the aged, vote against other legislation that will benefit working people come election time. They use a race issue to distract the minds of the voters from their record of opposition to the interest and make it appear that their opponent is the candidate of the NAACP
or the Negro Communist interests. So the idea of fear, fear, Labor itself has by no means a clean record when it comes to racial matters. And perhaps ironically, has not always been above utilizing racial feelings for its own purposes. Well, I think the whole racial problem is so closely tied to economics that it's impossible to separate. The employer has known this for years. If we go in to the black male section of Alabama or Mississippi to organize a plan immediately, pictures are circulated by the anti union employer of some of the international leaders sitting on the platform with a Negro to inflame the the more radical whites. At the same token, at the same time, pictures are circulated of some of the more extreme white people, Klansmen and so forth.
And their activities against the Negro to use the white against the Negro and the Negro against the white to defeat the organizing campaign. Senate time one of the international leaders makes a real strong statement in support of core of the Freedom Riders are the whole civil rights issue. Immediately, the conservative newspapers, the employer associations and others immediately start using this against us. For example, we were opposing the sales tax in the legislature and we found that the one of the international unions had that same week contributed to one of the Negro movements. This was reproduced and distributed to every legislator in an effort to discredit the labor movement before the legislature and to pass the sales tax. At the same time, conservatives in support of the sales tax were saying this is the only tax which the Negro will pay.
We must pass it. Maybe it's unfair, but at least it hits the Negro. And this is how that was paid. Our union all over the years have always fought for plant wide, saying M.S. Anderson made the mine mill and smelter work opportunity on nondiscriminatory bases is true. And regardless of race, creed, color and I might say we we lost the aunt or Mountain or Red Mountain, they call it nineteen forty nine for the simple reason we was at that time trying to maintain a type of seniority that would give ever everyone their rights. And that's the time the Steelworkers United Steelworkers Radiator's and Phillip Murray was live in their
propaganda. That was scrollworks. At least it wasn't put on paper, but it was told though people don't want men union. And at that time the we lost because the majority was white. What kind of seniority did they? Well, they had what they call lines of promotion or job seniority, or by that you enter this bottom line and you go up that line of promotion. And once you got in that allowed promotion, regardless, you couldn't get over to another line. And if they abolished that one, if you had 10 or 15 years seniority, you still had to go back down here at the bottom. Although some people and then this other line out of this pool didn't abotu years he was up ahead of you.
And that's what we was fighting. We didn't believe in it. And we wanted to maintain the principle that the senior man should have preference and we still do. Was this utilized to you white workers job preference over Negroes? The system of seniority? Sure. And it and then you see it that way back in the years they before they got this modern machine ran lines. You see, it was predominantly what you call hand looked into my hands. In other words, were they loaded or buy a shovel and pick? And, you know, no, white workers didn't want that. So the Negro is the one that was the main loaders. Well, then when when they got the joy loaders and the shuttle cars and so forth in the mines, then,
you know, they had a good sit down job worked laborers. No. And so they knew that the whenever you went on a plant wide seniority basis, that that man, that job came open, the man with seniority, if he could qualify, would be the Negro because he had been there all over the years. So this was a medium for that the white would get the preference because he'd get out of the pool, end of the line of promotion. Is that system still enforced today about labor? They've just closed down the mines. But actually, it it was it's stale at the time and they closed it down just a year ago. It was. And they was just certain lines of promotion that
a Negro energy and certain land motion watch was in. And it was. Good illustration would be, as I say, on the ground transportation. On the ground transportation there, what's called the traveling motor. I don't know whether you've ever seen one or not, that traveling motor, they where they load these cars and the various graphs and headings are haulage ways. They load the car and this traveling motor goes, goes to the entrance, pulls these cars back to the main pocket. Well, you see, that takes a motor runner and a trip, right? Sometimes they would let this Negro get up to the to the trip rider and so they win candy bar. DRDO went far enough at times.
So I'm told that Hadlow strikes. In other words, when the company says where we're going to move this Negro, he's entitled to it. He's got seniority and he's man out of the pool and he's supposed to go up here and trip. Right. And some of them may pull a little work stoppage, say. Anderson feels the experience of mine milen smelter proves that desire and determination on the part of the union will succeed in eliminating discrimination and promotion practices, even in the face of right to work laws and the reluctance of employers to refractory plants located here in Bessemer with only a crack between them. One belongs to the great Halvorssen Walker Factories Company,
which is the largest factors in the world. Others, the porters company of which is a refrac division both at present now what is known as Tunnel Keel's power presses and various types of mixin machines, which takes some scale or semiskilled to do just of late. First I'll say Halvorssen Walker when I first built their tunnel, Keel's and and they and their mixin machines they hired in new white employees, saying it took real technical knowledge and it took special training and therefore it didn't reach
out into the seniority set up and set them up as tokill operators. And so. But this new plan of porters, which is a similar tie, has a tunnel, Keel's Shuttle Keel's and one of the big mixers porters started out with the same idea in mind of installing put an all white on the mix in and known the tunnel keall and only operating real operating jobs and leaving more or less semiskilled just the Negro. And as this was a change over quite a bit to the machine, our union took the position that the senior man with your qualifications was entitled The Job, regardless of race, creed, color.
And we saw one form the company. They said that they didn't want to come down here and break down this barrier, but we told them, well, if they wanted to operate, that's what they'd have to do. So today. Well, first, the mixture was they claim to be a very complicated mix. And they wanted to have. They had to have at least a man with two years in college. We just told them, OK, we had it. We had the qualification in education. So that offset them. They wanted to know who. We told them we are ready to decide on who goes on the job, that either they comply with the contract and let the man bid on them. And then we'd say or either they put who we settle to make a trial. So we put a Negro in the mix.
Now we've got the second one on the mixer. We put one on the tokill. And now the second Negro has bid and he's on the talent queue. In fact, they only have three white downhill operators and two Negro companies. That is very satisfactory. And the superintendent at that time said it had to be this way to have all us college graduates and so forth to operate it. He finally quit and he's going to the good slim rubber company. We have a different superintendent, but everything is operating and at this plant and we have a posting system and a posted jobs and the man has got seniority and at least the qualifications. Not saying he's qualified on the job, but qualified to be trained on the job
the same as an outsider. He gets the job regardless of race, creed or color. The greatest problem faced by organized labor in coming to grips with the demand for equal job opportunity was discussed by Barny Weeks and by donning Spafford, president of the Birmingham Labor Council. Well, of course, employment is a real problem in Alabama with both white and Negro employment. Unemployment now is running about 17 percent and Atwal County is running almost that close. And Walker County, you have thousands unemployed here and in Jefferson County. These are trained, skilled people with seniority, even as much as 19 years, seniority in the steel mills and in the iron ore mines here, people who are out of work. Of course, you have this problem when you want to open up employment for Negroes. If the plant or the shop formerly employed all white and you have
a number of people who out of work with seniority under the contracts that they hear, the people who are out of work, who formerly worked and who have seniority are the first ones to be called back. I think the biggest problem is the lack of jobs for anybody, not just the lack of jobs for the Negro in the community, but in this situation, those people who wish to make the racial issue part of the labor issue have a pretty strong argument that they not. That is an argument to the white worker. Indeed, they do. So long as so long as the percentage of the population is as high as it is in Alabama of Negro members, then we cannot be satisfied. And I'm sure they won't until all of them have jobs. We likewise cannot be satisfied until only the white members
who are ready, willing and able to work have jobs. I think our primary responsibility is to try to change the economic picture in Alabama to where everybody who wants a job and who is capable of that job will be entitled to what happens to the situation when Negroes demand equal job opportunities in the context of a situation where there aren't enough jobs to go around. Well, if the if they are no people with seniority laid off and the employer and the union agrees that the Negro will have equal rights, then I think there's nothing to keep the next job that's open from being given to a Negro. Where the problem comes is that this has not always been done many jobs. Now there are no negroes on them. It's impossible. And I think unfair to ask that a white worker
who had been employed at a plant for, say, five years, it's unfair and impossible to request him to be laid off to make a job, a Negro. But if a job opens up, then certainly he ought to be entitled to. Well, of course, this area happens to unfortunately happens to be one of those areas. Right now, we have a very large unemployment situation existing in the area of this council. There's many thousands of our union members unemployed now. And for anyone to say that a worker, a white worker in the south is not apprehensive or the question of equal job opportunity is concerned or just not be facing the facts, because for many, many years, job opportunities in the south and seniority in the South and certain job assignments
have been designated by either promotional opportunity or job opportunity on the basis of color. And I think that every man, regardless of his color, is first and foremost concerned with his welfare and the welfare of his family. He sees the opening of four job opportunities for all races as a definite threat to his opportunities Daryn. And there really seems to be no solution to this particular problem, at least for the time being. Short of more jobs to go around, more jobs to go around. I think would be one of the primary solutions to the problem. Another one would, of course, particularly in. And job opportunities. The main thing that I see as far as the Negro worker is concerned is
a very extensive educational program and training program to qualify the Negro worker for the jobs that would be available, because as of now, unfortunately, there are many thousands of Negroes that would not be qualified for the job for the simple reason that they have never had the job opportunity. Therefore, they have never exerted the effort to train for that job or trained for that opportunity. This is one of the things that I think is going to be solved not by legislation or not by change of policy, but it's going had to be solved by time, effort and sincerity on everyone. But do you think that the federal program of job retraining is adequate to handle this particular problem, or do you think something more needs to be done in this respect? Well, I think that federal job retraining program is certainly
a help. I think that in many instances, the federal job retraining program is inadequate and not applied to the best advantage, because we have, I think, in the jurisdiction of my council maybe three projects underway in the job retraining program. And two of those job training programs are training people for skills that we now have a very large unemployment excess in this area. I think that a retraining program more realistically applied to the needs of the to the needs of the community and to the future prospects of what the community would develop in the way of job opportunity should be the primary concern in job retraining and not just a job retraining program for the sake of a job retraining.
We were able to talk to the steelworkers, Mr. Farr, about the general economic problems of his area. Our big problem is or our main problem is unemployment. We at the present time have what I'd see in the basic plants, but ticklers some. 25 or 30 percent of our members out of work. So I think jobs would cure our heals quicker than most anything. Are you? You are losing quite a few jobs due to automation in the steel industry, aren't you? Oh, yes. Yes. Are we losing? Lots of jobs, I don't know how to estimate the amount. And it hadn't been too many years since
I worked in the steel mills. And now they are making more steel per hour per employee than it was a few years ago. Have the total number of jobs decreased? Yes. I don't know to what extent, but the decreasing over day on the count of adding new machinery, new equipment. And to what extent does this directly affect your membership? How has your membership in the membership in your district been decreasing proportionately with this? Yes, it it's decreased proportionately. And could you give us any offhand figures on that? Well, they wouldn't have to be approximate figures. I'll go back some.
Well, there are 1959 negotiations, which some four years ago. Now we hear in the end the basic industrial and I leave out the small industrial was a particular time we had approximate twenty eight thousand people. Today, we figure that we have about £21, you've got about 7000 there in the last three years period. That is one out. And the company is making more steel today than it was three years ago. The remedy for the unemployment problem is universally considered to be industrial expansion in this part of the country. On this point, the political right and left seem to be an essential accord.
However, there is much criticism of methods utilized by southern states to attract new industry. One of the one of the attractions that has for some time been offered to industry in the South is cheap labor. That is still a problem I wish we and the union are faced with. There there's no way in the world to stop. Some city fathers are, you might say, some overzealous citizens from exploiting that point yet. But we have come a long way in our efforts of discouraging that kind of attraction. And I think we hail. I think now that our leadership, our community leadership is stressing those and those natural resources, the benefits to
be derived from the location in this area are much more than they are stressing. The fact that they are going to be able to get seventy five cent an hour labor and have no fear of organization. And they can guarantee that the unions won't come in because now they realize that we're we're here to stay. And we're going to always be on the on the move and we're going to try to organize the unorganized and we're going to try to discourage attracting industry on the philosophy that you can buy cheaper here than you can. Another another aspect of this attraction is what someone has called the socialism of the rich. The practice followed in several southern states of offering in coming industries, large tax exemptions, even free land and free buildings, sometimes even paying for part of
the plan. Do you believe us as a union leader that this is in the long run a help or a hindrance to the economic situation? I can't conceive of it being a help to the community or to the attracting of industry on a long range basis. Now, this this has been a problem definitely with us. We have many local statutes that have been enacted whereby they give concessions to land grants, float bond issues and build buildings farm and give them tax write offs. And they have attracted some industry on that basis. I don't know that the overall philosophy that you could just write it off as being bad, but I do think this that if you have nothing to offer other than tax concessions and land grant, that you don't have a whole lot to offer new industry.
And I have observed a few that have taken advantage of that kind of a situation that came into an area, used up the privileges that were granted by those special ordinances and laws. And soon as those privileges were exhausted, they have packed up their industry and moved another locality that offer the same benefits and the same advantages. So I don't think that in the long run, it it that it does a community too much good. What do you think are the principal valid attractions of the South for industry? Well, the Principal Valley's attractions, in my opinion, is the availability of labor force, a labor force that is capable, that can be trained. They are efficient. The natural resources of the south, the
climate of the south and contrary to opinions, may be in some places the hospital. Doubt in the friendship of the people that Claude Ramsey, president of the Mississippi Labor Council, AFLCIO, talked with us about the problems of industrial expansion and their origins in his state. And I want us to understand my present situation in Mississippi. You have to go back and review the background and the history of the state to a large degree in order to understand the existence eduation today and what you mean. Yes. Well, you must remember that the kind of enemy of the state for a number of years was largely agrarian and at the that there was very little industry in the state.
And again, in and around about the turn of the century, the political powers decided they wanted to keep interested and locate in Mississippi. And in order to accomplish this, they proceeded to enact certain statutes that would make it virtually impossible for a large hanish, they will say, and sell millions of dollars in value to locate here. They passed laws that would prohibit a corporation from all in over 2 million dollars in assets. This in itself kept several large industries from locating in Mississippi. I can name a couple if you like. Yes. The present large paper plant in Bogalusa, Louisiana was owned by Ron jalib back at one time, was a great southern lumber company, and they want to locate the city of Harrisburg, just south of here.
And because of the this law on the statute books, it was necessary if when to move into Louisiana just across from the state line. And yet they were able to avail themselves of the timber resources and so forth. And I have also. Mandl and I can't substantiate that right now. The that the standard oil refinery that located in Baton Rouge wanted to located Vicksburg because of that. And, you know, they want to be on the Mississippi River. And because of this statue, they also moved them to Louisiana. How long ago was that? This was around about around the turn of the century, I would say. Nineteen hundred to 1912 long in this period glass. After the fight began to become mechanized and the picture began to change and they, as they plant, began to mechanize, the farm laborers began to migrate and leave the area.
And the communities began to dry up. Shuffler Business leaders in the community found that they had to have payrolls in order to exempt themselves. And they decided that maybe they should be some changes made these laws and were repealed. I believe around about 1924 in this period. And as a result of that, then some industry began to move. And then under the Bush administration of white. This was in the early thirties, a program known as Balance Agriculture, where the industry was put into effect. This was an outright effort on the part of the state to attract more industry in the Mississippi, this program. You have communities, the authority on the law to float bond issues for the purpose of building plants and things of its kind. And most of the industry that she needed to raise an issue
in this state today then brought into the state where these problems, these bond issue type problems, so type industries that's moving in the Mississippi, the type that's attracted by these bond issue problems. We look upon him and referred to as a runaway shop on the north seeking to avoid unions, wages and time with this guy. And the fact that they don't have any capital investment and the plant makes it very difficult to organize a workers under the threat of organization. The owner can always pack up and move even from one community to another, for that matter, under this program. And this has happened on occasion where you might find some sentiment organized. And we have had at least I can I can think of one just offhand at this really happened.
One county. Stoled. He understood from another county, John. And it was located and was well organized. And this plant was sort of organization. And they moved and doggone it, that we had no membership to speaker. They move out for any other reasons, not this particular plan. I don't think so. I like a threat of organization. Was the reason this plant more the threat of competition. I think you were saying earlier is often a reason why some come in and then moved out. Of course, that has a band there on the growth of vanished within certain communities. Have any problem? What you referring to when one of these plants move n? Quite often they say to consolidate a community and build a fence around the place, so to speak, whereby no other industry can move in because they don't want
anyone in competition with the labor force, so to speak, and they've in effect stagnate humanity. And they said there then where there's one little payroll with a minimum wage type industry. And I say I'm inclined to think that that the number of people in a state begin to realize at this time Bannister actually is a detriment instead of an asset. Gosh, you understand what the attractions are to get these people here. I'm sure it's strictly a way a low wage type gimmick. The state offers some tax concessions, no taxes for 10 years. Why are the state legislature and tried to amass believe the workman's compensation and unemployment insurance laws? Thanks for these guys. This guy. Do you believe that this has any effect in building an industrial base in Mississippi and building up an economy?
Yes, very, very definitely. So, of course, you can't build in other ways. We can't raise the per capita income in the state significantly where this type of a base with this marginal type industry, minimum wage type industry. What we need in Mississippi, of course, is heavy type high wage type ministry. And we're not gonna get it in the state with this type of an attitude and this type of a program as the racial situation here and now create a problem. Both labor organizations than for the building an industrial base here. Well, of course, I think it has a very definite ban on me saying my shelf. I feel that the type industry that we badly need in this state is reluctant to invest
several millions of dollars in plant equipment as long as its racial unrest exists, as long as the threat of closing down and public schools exist. Thanks, this man. I think it has a very definite plan. Do you think that the people of Mississippi are going to have to eventually make a choice between whether they want industrialization or what they call the southern way of life? Yes, I think so. I think it might be sooner than a lot of people think. And as I said, it is a lot of careful thought being managed this time by certain people, of course. Perhaps the best summation of southern Labour's case, its problems and possibly even the solution to those problems was given by Cope's David Powell. I asked Mr Powell if it were not true that given present unemployment rate, the right worker found his own real economic interests simply
inconsistent with job equality for the Negro. I don't think that this is entirely true. I think the we are making some progress in this that low wages for the Negro, bad jobs for the Negro also endanger the white workers. A low base rate, a wage in the South means a relatively low top wage. Also, the Negro could be in in the south. A very important economic segment, a segment of the south. If he were if he had job opportunities and wages, it would make him a an important addition to the person about. Now, of course, we've got more, and I expect this applies
in most states because a scarcity of jobs, there's an unemployment problem. We've got more workers and their jobs and naturally there's competition. But some workers see the Negril as competition. And this, of course, is a factor in racial feeling. What has been the Negroes attitude toward organized labor in the past? Up to the poor? Well, from the days of the beginning of the CEO down here, of course, we have bills in the south much earlier. The Negro has been strongly pro-union and we've had less difficulty in past years in organizing the Negro than the white worker. The Negro seemed to understand
The Roots of Racial Conflict in the South
Episode Number
No. 3
Southern Labor and Civil Rights
Producing Organization
Pacifica Foundation
WBAI Radio (New York, N.Y.)
Contributing Organization
The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia (Athens, Georgia)
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Episode Description
This episode is Southern Labor and Civil Rights. "A documentary on organized labor in the South and its relation, or lack of it, to the Negro struggle."-- accompanying description.
Series Description
"Four documentary programs representing WBAI's program series, 'The Roots of Racial Conflict.' The four are: "Freedom Now!" A documentary on the events of April-May, 1963, in Birmingham, Alabama. "The Lady and the Dragon," A documentary made from interviews with Hazel Brannon Smith and others. Mrs. Smith is the editor and publisher of a Delta newspaper. "Southern Labor and Civil Rights", A documentary made from interviews with labor leaders across the south, in the summer of '63. "Mississippi Delta I & II", A documentary in two parts on attitudes and conditions of life in the Mississippi Delta, with special reference to the Civil Rights Movement. "Please see attached list for more detailed descriptions."--1963 Peabody Awards entry form.
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Director: Koch, Chris
Producer: Minor, Dale
Producing Organization: Pacifica Foundation
Producing Organization: WBAI Radio (New York, N.Y.)
Writer: Minor, Dale
AAPB Contributor Holdings
The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia
Identifier: cpb-aacip-92c2068c94f (Filename)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
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Chicago: “The Roots of Racial Conflict in the South; No. 3; Southern Labor and Civil Rights,” 1963, The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 26, 2022,
MLA: “The Roots of Racial Conflict in the South; No. 3; Southern Labor and Civil Rights.” 1963. The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 26, 2022. <>.
APA: The Roots of Racial Conflict in the South; No. 3; Southern Labor and Civil Rights. Boston, MA: The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from