By moving South, businessmen can certainly escape “union domination.” In addition, they find a political environment that inhibits union organizers and enhances the region’s “good business climate.” Except for Louisiana, every state in the South has enacted some form of “right to work” legislation outlawing the closed shop. This makes union organizing extremely difficult and, consequently, it increases the percentage of the labor force that has no union affiliation. Jo hn Sp rag ens, Jr. against unions, welfare recipients, the unemployed, and publicly financed social service agencies. The corporate arsenal includes such weapons as threats of plant closings, the ability to wreak economic havoc on local economies, and a propaganda campaign suggesting that, in some form or other, we are all in the midst of a struggle for regional honor and power. The corporations are fighting for the restoration of a “good business climate” in the Northeast a codeword for lack of union militancy, the “right” to pay lower wages, and a political environment that views most taxation, social services, and corporate regulations as unwarranted intrusions on the rights of private property. From the corporate perspective, the South is the perfect arena in which to wage this struggle against working class benefits in the North. More than any other region, it offers a vivid illustration of the supposed benefits associated with a “good business climate.” On the one hand, the Southern economy has grown dramatically since the 1950s. At the same time, ever since the 1880s, when Henry Grady and other proponents of the New South tried to convince corporate leaders that the South was a secure’ bastion of unfettered free enterprise and cheap labor, Southern officials have rarely deviated from their probusiness attitudes. In these two respects, therefore, the South presents a striking comparison with the Northeast. In terms of economic growth, the South entered the great Depression as little more than a domestic colony for Northern industrialists. But within three decades, it became one of the most rapidly growing, technologically sophisticated industrial centers in the nation. In 1938, for example, President Roosevelt, noting the widespread poverty, disease, illiteracy, and lack of industry, described the South as “the nation’s number one economic problem.” Eight years later, John Gunther characterized Texas as “New York’s most valuable foreign possession.” Both men’s assertions were buttressed by a 1947 Congressional Report entitled The Agricultural and Economic Problems of the South. In that document, Congress described the prominent features of the Southern economy and concluded that “in many ways the South has served as a colonial empire to other regions of the nation.” However, in the decades since that congressional report was published, the Southern economy has changed dramatically. Tenant farming and sharecropping, so pervasive during the 1920s and 1930s, all but disappeared. Southern agriculture was liberated from the ruinous effects of the crop lien system and monoculture. The old economic foundation of cotton, tobacco, textiles, and lumber was replaced by oil, aerospace, electronics, and agribusiness. Despite this economic transformation, many significant features of Southern society have not changed during the past century: Southern workers are still the lowest paid in the nation; Southern workers still receive fewer fringe benefits and social services than their counterparts in other regions; 4 OCTOBER 3, 1980
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