Union Activities in the South
New Emphasis on Southern Organizing
One of the issues the Senate will take up after completing action on the Panama Canal treaties is labor law revision. Union leaders are lobbying hard for legislation that would make it easier to organize workers and negotiate collective bargaining agreements. Many observers say the action is aimed particularly at the South — the nemesis of organized labor for nearly 100 years. Many of the practices cited by labor as illustrating the need for reform have occurred among employers in Dixie.
The economy of the South has flourished in recent years as northern companies, seeking a favorable physical and business climate, have opened new plants below the Mason-Dixon line. Although some argue that labor's current interest in the South is a product of this economic shift, the region long has been a target of union organizing. In fact, the greatest gains for organized labor in the South came between 1946 and 1953.
The South remains the least unionized region in the United States. About 29 per cent of the nation's labor force are union or employee association members, according to the Department of Labor. But in the 11 states of the old Confederacy the percentages are much lower. They range from a high of 24 per cent in Alabama to just 10 per cent in North and South Carolina. Between 1963 and 1974 union membership declined in all the southern states except Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina.