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A study into the history of Southern Labor Unions with an emphasis on race and gender

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  1. Roediger's study into race and class in the nineteenth century.
  2. Roediger's book - Formation of concept of whiteness and white supremacy.
  3. The story of Thomas Watkins.
  4. Honey's book and the emergence of organized labor unions in Memphis.
  5. Neil Foley's The White Scourge an examination of the cotton culture in centra Texas.
  6. Foley on plights and efforts of women living on cotton farms.
  7. The AFL and CIO.

In David Roediger's Wages of Whiteness, the reader is introduced to the author by an autobiographical introduction that paints the picture of a white adolescent growing up in the turbulent South. The author tells of his experiences with race in a small southern town near St. Louis where locals would rather close a swimming pool than integrate it with African Americans. With this uncommon personal introduction, the author sets up a study examining the growth of the white worker and how they developed their ?whiteness? and the actions they took to make sure their identity was kept separate from the black worker. In his introduction Roediger sums up what his early life taught him in ?the role of race in defining how white workers looks not only at Blacks but at themselves; the pervasiveness of race; the complex mixture of hate, sadness and longing in the racist thought of white workers; the relationship between race and ethnicity?.

[...] Honey's book introduces the concept of unions in Memphis with first providing examples of southern towns like Elaine, Arkansas where black sharecroppers were murdered and imprisoned by whites for their attempt to organize labor groups. Labor organizations like the Southern Tenant Farmers' Union (STFU) were created in response to ?massive evictions of rural workers precipitated by the New Deal's Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1933? (p. 68-69). The New Deal act led to unfair actions by plantation owners and the creation of labor groups that tried to protest, some successfully, the wage and working conditions of field workers (p. [...]

[...] The work culture that was formed by the women eventually united them to fight against the generally unacceptable working conditions they were forced to experience. The AFL and CIO both attempted to unionize the male workers of canneries but paid no attention to the seasonal female workers. It was the UCAPAWA, which was affiliated with the CIO, which saw the promise in unionizing all of the seasonal workers into a democratic union that was decentralized and included delegates of multiple racial and regional backgrounds (p. 43). [...]

[...] While other unions concentrated on men, the UCAPAWA diversified their membership and sought to create a new union that was absent from the flaws and frustrations of past organizations. A difference in the UCAPAWA when compared to other unions of its time was the fact that Mexican women had executive positions and served as officers (p. 79). Males were still the dominant gender in the union's leadership roles but women ?held approximately one-sixth of the major offices and about one-half of the community service committee posts in UCAPAWA farm affiliates? (p. [...]

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