The cultural reach of Southern industry, grounded in economic power and extending to judicial and political influence, embraced matters of religion as well. The cause and effect of cultural and economic influences were sufficiently intertwined as to make for a kind of social integration that was deeply rooted in the historical experience of Southern people. But the extent of this integration is not easily specified. Generations of agricultural life, originally structured upon and subsequently sustained through segregation, produced social circumstances that easily distinguished the region from the rest of the nation.1 Widespread poverty contributed to a thin material infrastructure, including, for example, a minimal network of roads that in turn heightened the isolation of rural life. In such a setting, the crossroads chapels of the South served many functions beyond matters of faith, including their existence as an essential component of social life. Southern churches were the week-in, week-out magnet of social interaction. The preacher was expected to be entertaining, and when he was not, his constituents tended to look elsewhere.
In stirring the emotions and in generating guilt, the role of the South’s fire and brimstone ministers created a social specimen that has been subjected to much scholarly examination.2 But while such mutations of conventional religion clearly deserve the attention they have received, it is equally important to note the central role of the Southern church as an ongoing social institution.
A Southern minister, musing about the reasons his largely working-class parishioners attended church, concluded there were four: “because they have been hurt and need comforting; because they are lonely and need company; because they are often reminded in their work that they are relatively low on the social totem pole, and they want to enjoy a different status somewhere; and because almost anyone can participate in the control of the church.”3
Faced with such motivations on the part of a congregation, the Southern minister who attempted to focus upon serious analyses of the Bible—and especially those ministers so determined to systematize the educational functions of Christianity that they organized “Bible study” classes—soon encountered strong resistance among the working poor. As one Southern minister summarized his parishioners’ negative response to classes on the Bible, they “simply did not come to church to go to school again.”4
The ambiguity surrounding the churchgoing impulses of Southerners suggests that a certain degree of caution must accompany any characterization of the precise impact of religion on Operation Dixie. But however qualified the conclusion, there can be no doubt that there was some influence.5 Indeed, the heritage of Southern religion intruded time and again upon the organizing efforts of the CIO. The thrust of much anti-union propaganda emanating from religious sources can be summarized in a single phrase: belonging to a labor union was an un-Christian thing to do. As a mill village preacher in South Carolina phrased the options posed by Operation Dixie: “It’s either Christ or the CIO.”6
Motive is, of course, very difficult for the historian to assess. Many ministers opposed the CIO as a logical extension of their own world view.7 But sometimes they were moved by more practical reasons. Ministers trying to raise funds for building campaigns occasionally injected local labor disputes into their sermons in ways calculated to win the admiration and, perhaps, the gratitude of local industrialists. For example, on the eve of a textile election in Georgia, a minister in the mill village of Clarksdale took timeout from his fund-raising campaign to go on the radio with a unique blend of religious and secular messages. As later characterized before a Senate committee, the minister “quoted liberally from the Bible, thus inducing a religious attitude among his listeners” and then swung into a “vicious attack” on CIO leaders whom he characterized as “intruders,” “Communists,” “a bunch of humbugs,” and “parasites living off the common laboring people.” Said the minister in his prepared radio address: “I am against it because it isn’t Bible. Luke 3:14 says be content with your wages.”8
However, the level of invective emanating from individual ministers was modest compared with the virulent anti-union “Christian” message of Militant Truth. Author John Roy Carleson characterized this remarkable “newspaper” as “a combination of . . . Bible-belt fundamentalist, Flag-waving, and Red-and-labor-baiting” that made it “an irresistible potion for impressionable southerners.”9
Militant Truth featured a masthead with illustrations of the Holy Bible superimposed on a cross and an adjoining American flag. The editor of the newspaper, Sherman Patterson, stalked the Southern countryside in search of labor disputes into which he might intervene, although he assured one inquiring reporter that his purpose was “not to fight unions”; rather, he said, Militant Truth was to “promote fundamental Christianity and constitutional Americanism.”10 Militant Truth added to its monthly attack on unions with an undated “Special Labor Edition,” first put out in 1945 and distributed throughout the course of Operation Dixie.11 Such editions would “appear mysteriously” in workers’ mailboxes right before an NLRB election. Although the paper listed a price of thirty-five cents for an annual subscription, the paper came to most recipients free, “compliments of a friend.”12 To one reporter who posed as a Southern manufacturer, Patterson said that he had a circulation of 45,000. He added that he could not make a profit at less than the 50,000 level, but that he had been receiving adequate contributions from various businessmen in the meantime to take care of the deficit.13 In addition, Patterson had plans to produce at least 100,000 copies of another “Special Labor Edition” early in 1946.14
Militant Truth’s ultimate weapon went beyond the portrayal of unionism as an un-Christian activity. Helpful as this was, it did not quite have the shock power of one other available weapon: the Red issue. It appeared in stark relief in Patterson’s “Special Labor Edition.” In articles such as the one entitled “CIO Communists Agitate Racial Strife,” traditional attitudes about race were mobilized to present the CIO as a deceptive and alien force driven by un-Southern motives: “Absolute social and racial equality is one of the major points in the Communist program in America . . . to organize the Negro labor in the South.” The inevitable result of CIO activity would be “discontent, unrest, discord resulting in strikes, class-hatred, and terrorism in many of our southern industries.” CIO organizers were not people; they were the “master-minds of the red, revolutionary program” and Operation Dixie was “the best weapon yet devised for the purpose of deliberately agitating race against race and class against class.”15 As presented by the editors of Militant Truth, the CIO was not, in fact, seeking to organize unions. That was a “guise.” Its primary objective was “to arouse class-hatred and race-hatred for the purpose of creating strikes, riots, bloodshed, anarchy and revolution.”16
In a Southern mill village, hostile ministers or an inflammatory anti-union newspaper could have a pronounced negative impact. Yet even well-documented evidence from selected villages and rural areas cannot provide more than an impressionistic sense of the role the Southern ministry played in labor’s defeat there. The timing of the CIO’s response to religious opposition merits a careful review, however. At the outset of Operation Dixie, potential ministerial opposition was not seen by the CIO leadership as a high priority challenge. The Atlanta office, logically enough, focused its attention most persistently on employer tactics. But as the summer wore on, and especially after the succession of textile defeats in August, the attention of CIO leadership was increasingly directed to the anti-union activities of organized religion. This emphasis first appeared in the early summer in CIO staff reports in which local organizers, attempting to account for unanticipated defeats, cited the opposition of local preachers. There was a self-serving quality to such finger-pointing, of course: it directed attention away from possible failures by the organizers themselves. Nevertheless, grass roots interpretations can be accurate as well as self-serving, so the validity of conclusions reached by organizers cannot be faulted on these grounds alone. What appears to be especially significant is the timing of these interpretations and what that timing revealed about the advance preparation made for Operation Dixie by the CIO’s top leadership.
Labor’s institutional response to the appearance of Militant Truth and to the activities of local ministers in scores of communities across the South took the form of a public relations drive, using the services of a prominent Southern reformer, Lucy Randolph Mason. She was aided in her effort by two other CIO staffers, Ruth Gettinger and John Ramsay. The three were designated “Community Relations Representatives.” The efforts of Mason, Gettinger, and Ramsay, loosely coordinated by Bittner out of Atlanta, also fed into an overall public relations effort controlled by Allan Swim, the CIO’s national public relations director.17 Mason was employed by the CIO even before Operation Dixie, as a kind of roving ambassador-at-large. During the Southern drive, she went into Southern towns and cities and contacted ministers, editors, law enforcement officials, and local political leaders. Where possible, she visited these dignitaries prior to the arrival of CIO organizers in those cities.18 Mason’s reports to the Atlanta office and to various state directors, notably those in textile states, offer instructive insights into the patterns of local opposition throughout textile country.
But perhaps more relevant than the substance of her reports was their timing—from early autumn through the winter of 1946. The employment of Mason and her colleagues Gettinger and Ramsay was a reactive stratagem, one that was enlisted on an ad hoc basis after much of the damage had already been done to the CIO’s drive in textiles. All the major drives were well underway before Mason was able to make a local appearance. The decision to expend limited CIO funds in such an effort appears as a direct response to organizers’ field reports specifying anti-union activity by religious publications and individual ministers. Both events—the specifying of religious opposition and the launching of a “P.R. campaign” in response to such opposition—came well after the CIO drive in textiles had begun to enter a crisis stage.
Mason’s projected role in Operation Dixie was outlined for her by SOC director Bittner at the beginning of September. As late as the first week in September, she was relaying this projected role to subsidiary state directors. “Mr. Bittner says he wants me to go into a number of communities ahead of organizing,” she wrote to North Carolina state director Smith on September 6th. By that date, of course, Smith was reeling from a succession of defeats in textile elections.19
Mason made what might be described as a “discovery” trip through South Carolina late in August, sounding out the general attitudes of local political, educational, religious, and law enforcement officials. Her reports from a half dozen mill villages and from larger towns impressed the CIO’s South Carolina state director, Franz Daniel, and led to the larger role outlined for her by the Atlanta office in September. Informed by her experiences in South Carolina, Mason moved into the heart of the textile industry in North Carolina in September. Together with Ramsay, Mason provided publicity director Swim with materials including favorable quotes from an occasional prolabor clergyman. Ramsay suggested that an organization of ministers and labor leaders be established as a “Religion and Labor Fellowship,” a model he had created in other parts of the country. It was an idea, thought Ramsay, “out of which could develop moral stamina for a collective effort.”20
While such decent but vaguely focused plans were being suggested, the CIO was daily being assaulted by well-financed and well-coordinated attacks from a phalanx of fundamentalist editors and ministers. The contest was hardly a balanced one.
Nevertheless, the largely extemporaneous efforts of Mason, Ramsay, and Gettinger yielded a measure of tangible results. Wherever they appeared, their presence heightened the morale of organizing staffs in the South. The South Carolina state director wrote to Mason that “the boys in Greenville” had been “very much encouraged” as a result of her work. “Their morale was at a pretty low end due to the furious nature of the attack” they had been undergoing.21
And Ramsay, too, stirred admiration. “I don’t know how he covered so much territory,” said one organizer. “He was always trying to find a, a minister in an area that would stand up for the union. Just one. Just enough to give the workers a reason to say, ‘Unions can’t be bad, because this preacher’s for ’em.’ That’s what Ramsay tried to do.”22
However, the CIO’s triumvirate of community relations representatives can best be understood as ill-provisioned infiltrators, judiciously picking their way through hostile territory in quest of friendly faces. Back in Atlanta, Swim searched for a more substantive plan of attack. He confided to Ramsay that he was “working out a scheme” by which he hoped “to combat the bad effects of The Militant Truth, The Trumpet and other vicious anti-labor newspapers which charge that the CIO is un-Christian and communistic.”23 He foresaw a committee “composed entirely of persons who are not connected with the CIO to help combat these publications.” Emphasis would be placed on the idea “that Southern laboring people are good, solid, religious citizens imbued with no strange ‘isms.’” The committee would alert the public to the fact that the strident religious publications were “interfering with cooperation and understanding between management and labor because they are playing on religious and racial prejudice.” He needed Ramsay’s help in getting past “square one,” however, in that his “contact with such ministers in the South” was so limited that he did “not know where to begin.”24 Unfortunately, by midsummer, 1946, time no longer remained for the CIO to perform such preliminary organizing tasks. The litany of textile defeats was only weeks away.
What emerges, then, in the realm of tactics is a pattern of organized anti-labor propaganda subsidized by businessmen and emanating from religious sources, and a belated, almost hip-pocket counter-campaign pieced together by the Atlanta office of the CIO. While the details of many of these skirmishes can be traced readily enough through available historical sources, the skirmishes themselves took place within a larger context that is by no means easy to describe precisely. There seems no question that Southern society projected a religious aura more demonstrably than other regions of the nation. But the extent to which the people of the South possessed a genuine “religious sensibility” is a question that has been subjected to much debate among clergymen and historians. And the extent to which religious beliefs worked to undermine the CIO campaign has also been a matter of debate, not least among CIO organizers who were in the field at the time. Where the union prevailed, or lost purely as a result of company tactics other than the use of religion, CIO organizers tended to minimize the adverse impact of church-centered, anti-union propaganda. But in the many locales where company officials made use of Militant Truth or mobilized the local ministerial association, CIO organizers tended to emphasize the destructive impact of Southern “religiosity.”25
A contemporary journalistic view of the anti-labor activities of Southern religious groups was provided by Stetson Kennedy, who published his findings in a book-length study entitled Southern Exposure. Kennedy tracked the work of an organization known as the “Christian-American Association,” which focused much of its attention upon generating anti-union legislation in Southern states. According to its secretary-treasurer, Vance Muse, the association’s “anti-violence bill would implement the power of our peace officers to quell disturbances and keep the color line drawn in our social affairs.” According to the Houston Post, Muse announced that he had uncovered the existence across the South of “Eleanor Clubs,” which he described as a “RED RADICAL scheme to organize negro maids, cooks, and nurses in order to have a Community informer in every Southern home.” Mrs. Muse, chief clerk of the association, further confided—as reported by Victor Bernstein in the Antioch Review—“that she was worried about the ‘Eleanor Clubs’ because they stood for ‘$15 a week salary for all nigger house help, Sundays off, no washing, and no cleaning upstairs.’” Letting herself go still further, she said: “Christian Americans can’t afford to be anti-Semitic, but we know where we stand on the Jews, all right. It doesn’t pay us to work with Winrod, Smith, Coughlin, and those others up North; they’re too outspoken and would get us into trouble.”26
Christian American fought against women’s suffrage, against the child-labor amendment, helped collect $250,000 from the railroads for the cause of striking down the eight-hour-day bill, fought for a 25 percent limit on federal inheritance and income taxes, and “for ‘Americanization of the Supreme Court’ (Austrian-born Frankfurter’s decisions in labor cases having been distasteful to employers).”27
The postwar proliferation of organizations like Christian American across the South demonstrated the enormous range of the anti-union activities that confronted CIO strategists. But Christian American was not as widespread, nor its blows as telling, as the carefully aimed editions of Militant Truth, sent more often to textile workers than to any others. “In Georgia alone, mass distribution of Militant Truth was made to workers at the following mills: Exposition Cotton Mills, Piedmont Cotton Mill, Gate City Cotton Mills, Rushton Cotton Mill, Thomaston Cotton Mill, Lowell Bleachery, Inc., Crompton-Highland Mill, Dundee Mills, Athens Manufacturing Company, A. D. Julliard, Anchor Duck Mill, Mandeville Mills, Carolina Mills, Dallas Mill, and Douglas Mill.”28
When these people would get them, they had never seen them before. “Why am I getting this, all of a sudden?” Well, the people you had persuaded, that believed in the union or were convinced, or were union sympathizers, you could explain to them what it was. But for many others, I think it put that doubt [there]. Sometimes a person will be for you, and not move because there’s a nagging doubt in the back of their mind that maybe they’re wrong. I think there’s people who believe they’re going to vote for the union until they get in the booth. Then they think, “Am I making the right choice?” I really believe that. The Militant Truth wouldn’t be as effective now, but I would say it was effective then, to the extent it gives them ammunition to hide behind, people who were afraid.29
The speed with which Militant Truth seemed to shadow the CIO organizing staff was impressive. “If we started organizing a plant today, well, within two weeks the people were getting Militant Truth in their homes.”30 Even the organizers sometimes got a copy. “Every motel I’d check into, somebody would send me a copy,” reported James Jackson from Mississippi. “I got it for years! I could be at a place a couple of weeks and the thing would start showing up.”31 As another Mississippi organizer recalled it, the paper “showed up where we showed up.”32
Yet the impact of Militant Truth, like that of the work of Christian American, could not be described as pervasive. Not all employers felt that such primitive roundhouse blows as those favored by Militant Truth and Christian American were the most effective means of fighting Operation Dixie. A Tennessee textile executive, noting Militant Truth’s characterization of Sidney Hillman of the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers of America (ACWA) as “an alien-born communist,” informed the paper’s editors that “we are fighting the Amalgamated [Clothing Workers] and fighting Hillman as strenuously as we can, but we don’t care to use poisoned weapons.”33
It is important to specify, then, that as widespread as the use of Militant Truth was, many companies selected other means, including other uses of religious representatives, to combat the CIO campaign. Militant Truth represented the most visible evidence of a coordinated regional effort that distributed centrally produced propaganda material to scores of local communities. But at least as often, Southern employers mobilized only local ministerial allies.
CIO organizers dispatched to every section of the South testified to the varieties of local employer-ministerial cooperation. What impressed many CIO organizers—so starkly that they remember rich details forty years later—was the instant notoriety they found they had acquired by the mere act of arriving in a mill village and identifying themselves as members of the CIO.
The company would not only make radio announcements, they’d get a preacher on Sunday: “We have a labor organizer in town who is nothing but an agitator and will tell nothing but lies to get you to join and sign a union card and have an election!” The company would put it out in leaflets! And then the preacher would take that leaflet and read it at the pulpit!34
Among the targeted giants of the textile industry, anti-CIO campaigns by local ministers were sometimes augmented by the sudden appearance in town of traveling tent-show revivalists. When, against heavy opposition, the CIO organizing staff at the huge Avondale Mills chain in Alabama began to make some progress in the summer in 1946, there abruptly appeared “long-haired preachers” who “set up tents” and began to “preach about God and the Savior.” “But,” remembered an Avondale organizer, “the first thing you know, they were preaching that the union is the ‘mark of the beast.’”35
Though opinion was not unanimous, organizers were in general agreement that fundamentalist preachers were most responsive to offers of various sorts from mill owners. But among the giants of the textile industry, as distinct from the small mills, ministerial support for mill owners seemed broader. “The management made sure in most Southern cities, especially textile towns like Kannapolis, that they went all the way from the Fundamentalists up through the Baptists, Methodists and Presbyterians.”36
The linkage of mill-owner money and ministerial cooperation is one conjectural feature of the politics surrounding Operation Dixie that seems beyond precise documentation. There can be no doubt that CIO organizers—and friendly outside associates such as Lucy Randolph Mason—believed that financial considerations were a key component of ministerial opposition to the CIO. But since prudence dictated that payments, if any, be made in cash, and subsequent acknowledgment of such disbursements clearly constituted injudicious politics on the part of mill owners as well as ministers, verifying historical evidence is all but impossible to discover, beyond the fact that mill owners routinely contributed to Southern churches.
Occasionally, an isolated incident verified direct “gifts” of a kind that seemed to go beyond the boundaries of routine contributions. One young female textile worker sheepishly confided to a CIO organizer her “bad manners” when confronted with evidence of employer largesse to the local minister. The minister appeared in a country store proudly showing off the new suit he had received from the mill owner. The young worker responded, “You know, if I didn’t work so cheap, he couldn’t afford to give them suits away. I feel like I helped give you that suit.” The young woman added, in terms that dramatized the mixture of assertion and deference that made up Southern working-class life, “I just couldn’t help but say it.”37
But such evidence, however vivid, must be used cautiously in attempting an overall assessment of the impact of organized religion on Operation Dixie. What is clear is the overwhelming nature of public ministerial opposition to the CIO as compared with public ministerial support. The latter was so rare that when it did occur, CIO personnel were ecstatic. A long-time organizer in textiles attributed his success in organizing a plant outside Hickory, North Carolina, to the presence of “a liberal preacher there.” “We got him, and that did it. That’s an organizer’s dream, but it doesn’t happen very often.”38 Another organizer referred to a minister of “one of the more affluent Presbyterian churches,” a man who had come from Canada and was “very pro-labor.” Unfortunately, his usefulness was limited, because “he probably didn’t have a single worker, a blue-collar person, as a member of his church.”39 In a similar manner, Lucy Mason encountered in the editor of a Baptist newspaper in Greenville, South Carolina a “liberal old gentleman” with whom she had had a “good talk.” Unfortunately, the old gentleman was intimidated: “He can’t tackle these mill village men,” she said.40
What comes to the surface, through such bits and pieces of scattered written and oral evidence, is a central fact about the political and social climate that surrounded Operation Dixie: The CIO was being quietly and profoundly overwhelmed by the totality of the cultural opposition it encountered during Operation Dixie. In one sense, this conclusion is ultimately verified by the halting, well-intentioned, but hopelessly inadequate efforts by the CIO itself to establish the basics of a labor-religious coalition.
The national, regional, and local efforts of the CIO in the South illustrate this fact quite clearly. At first glance, the CIO seemed to have some imposing religious allies on whom to draw. The CIO enjoyed the support, for example, of the Federated Council of the Churches of Christ in America, which had created an Industrial Relations Division under the chairmanship of Yale sociologist Liston Pope and church leaders James Meyers and Cameron Hall. The CIO could also count on Willard Uphaus, executive director of the National Religion and Labor Foundation, which in turn had ties within Southern Baptist churches through a Southern affiliate, the Fellowship of Southern Churchmen. The latter published a well-informed and authoritative journal, Economic Justice, under the committed editorship of Nelle Morton.
The CIO could also count on individual Southern ministers previously recruited by Mason, Ramsay, and Gettinger during the organizing months of 1946. Logistical support, after a fashion, existed in the form of pamphlets generated by Allan Swim in the CIO’s Atlanta office. Such materials as “The CIO and the Churches,” “The Church and the Labor Unions,” and “The Church’s Answer to Labor’s Critics” could be supplied from Atlanta to all cooperating ministers and CIO organizers for local distribution across the South.
Beyond this, different internationals tried varying strategies to cope with the problem. The Packinghouse Workers, for example, tried to harness the language of the Bible and used a UPWA staff newsletter to provide appropriate biblical quotations to organizers for ammunition throughout the region.41 Similarly, Operation Dixie’s assistant public relations director in Atlanta, E. Paul Harding, notified all state directors that the CIO had been opposed in many areas by the Holiness Church, but without approval from those in charge of the denomination. He suggested that staff members circulate a notice to that effect, adding that “The Pentecostal Holiness book of Discipline says that a paragraph against joining oathbound secret societies, is not intended to prevent Holiness members from joining labor unions.”42 The CIO also published a full-color, full-length comic book entitled “The Bible and the Working Man,” which began: “The Truth about workers and their struggles to better their lives by group action is an old story.”43
At the tenth annual convention of the Texas State Industrial Union Council, Operation Dixie’s director in that state gave those in attendance some very clear examples of “new ways to talk.”
We are going to win. And we don’t say in our program that we are going to win because God is on ourside—we know we are going to win because we are on God’s side. CIO to me is the practical application of Christian principles. This program . . . is as Christian as anything that has ever been offered to the American people. That is practical Christianity.44
Some sections of the CIO went so far as to try to alter those elements of an aggressively male working-class culture that—experience in Operation Dixie had begun to suggest—might be counterproductive. Textile organizers were admonished to drink soft drinks rather than beer, and to consider wearing ties when approaching workers. Some organizers were told to give up “cussing” and others were advised to open union meetings with prayers.45
However, such tactical suggestions as to how to alter cultural habits were not as strong as the culture itself. One organizer, fully in sympathy with these new tactics, said, “I tried to get the real religious people to be my in-plant leaders.” He then added, in a tone of deprecation that cast a shadow over the depth to which CIO organizers took such suggestions to heart: “Get them sob sisters first. Then it’s OK.”46
Similarly, it was easier for organizers to consider, and intellectually accept, the utility of “not cussing” than it was to erase a lifetime habit. And previous beliefs about “acceptable” male behavior could not be easily put into cold storage, even temporarily. Though the Packinghouse Union could generate an internal staff newsletter offering useful biblical quotations, the union’s radical and somewhat secular leadership felt it necessary to spell out to the newsletter’s recipients that “some areas may respond well to Biblical quotations.”47 Such remarks probably reveal more about the psychological distance between the union and Southern culture than they do about trade unionists’ flexibility. In such ways, the very “progressiveness” of the CIO sometimes proved unhelpful.
But there were even more ominous signs pointing to the ineffectiveness of labor’s reactive campaign against organized Southern religious opposition. The Northern affiliates of religious groups that cooperated actively with the CIO had observable goodwill, but they also had very few Southern connections. The bulletin of the National Religion and Labor Foundation, Economic Justice was, under Nelle Morton’s leadership, well informed and quite relevant to the Southern scene. But it also was easily dismissable in a cultural sense. “Progressives” in the South read Economic Justice; mayors and police chiefs did not.
In this sense, much of labor’s religious effort traveled a rather small and circular path—from the committed few to the committed few. Labor leaders quoted friendly ministers and vice versa; a kind of “inter-quote” developed that left out most Southern leaders.
A striking earnestness nevertheless characterized the ethical, church-oriented literature generated by the CIO. Among the biblical quotations the CIO thought appropriate was Ecclesiastes 4:9–10: “Two are better than one because they have good reward for their labor. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: But woe to him that is alone.” The Packinghouse Workers also suggested Job 31:13–14 as “one for the boss.” “If I did despise the cause of my servants when they contended with me, what then shall I do when God riseth up?”48
Yet at the level of individual decision making by workers—at the level where the CIO succeeded or failed in NLRB elections—labor’s counter-campaign had a distant, almost abstract quality that utterly failed to translate into organizational breakthroughs during local organizing campaigns.
While the CIO attempted to use the Bible in a different way and to suggest “woe to him that is alone,” labor’s corporate opponents were harnessing other biblical quotations to reinforce themes about communism and race mixing. By the summer of 1946, a political affinity had been reached between corporations on the one hand, and law enforcement officers and state and local officials on the other; the corporate use of the Bible could be far more effectively distributed throughout Southern society than anything that could reasonably be expected from the small platoon of “Community Relations Representatives” led by Lucy Randolph Mason.
In this sense, it was not so much the Bible itself as the uses to which the Bible could be put by a well-financed coalition of business and religious leaders that caused the CIO so much difficulty.
Corporate power, not Southern religion by itself, defeated the CIO during Operation Dixie. But the ability of corporations to exploit the complex heritage of Southern religion was one of the ingredients of their successful war against the CIO.
This unsigned postcard with its threatening anti-union message was mailed in Winston-Salem, N.C., to organizer Ed McCrea on March 4, 1948. (Photo by David Haberstich. Courtesy of Ed and Bea McCrea.)
An undated photo of the employees of the Carolina Wood Turning Company in Bryson City, N.C. They are celebrating the results of an NLRB election just held there, which saw the CIO win over the AFL by 81 votes to 1. (George Meany Memorial Archives.)
An office of the Textile Workers Union of America (TWUA), probably in Tennessee. (Photo by Paul Christopher. AFL-CIO Region VIII Collection, SLA.)
The Southern Organizing Committee’s sound truck used during Operation Dixie. (CIO Publicity Department, North Carolina Papers, ODA.)
Members of the United Packinghouse Workers of America on strike at the Jones-Chambliss packing plant in Jacksonville, Fla., on March 25, 1949. While the company had been paying workers a minimum hourly wage of 40 cents, strikebreakers were paid a minimum wage of 65 cents. (United Packinghouse Workers Collection, SLA.)
Distribution of goods at the CIO commissary set up for striking workers at the Greene Brothers Lumber Co. in Elizabethtown, N.C. (CIO Organizing Committee, North Carolina Papers, ODA.)
Workers outside the office of Greene Brothers Lumber Company in Elizabethtown, N.C., target of a prolonged organizing campaign by the International Woodworkers of America during Operation Dixie, and a strike in 1948. (CIO Organizing Committee, North Carolina Papers, ODA.)
ClO-sponsored Christmas party for families of striking workers at Greene Brothers Lumber Co., Elizabethtown, N.C. (CIO Organizing Committee, North Carolina Papers, ODA.)
Poster distributed by the International Woodworkers of America, quoting Franklin D. Roosevelt on union membership. (CIO Printed Material. ODA.)
A group of unidentified CIO workers in Tennessee in 1949. (Photo by Paul Christopher. AFL-CIO Region VIII Collection, SLA.)
A CIO field representative conducts a meeting of furniture workers in Lenoir, N.C., in 1952. (CIO Publicity Department, North Carolina Papers, ODA.)
CIO President Philip Murray addressing a Labor Day rally in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1950. Steel works can be seen in background. (AFL-CIO Region VIII Collection, SLA.)
This flyer was sent to many organizers across the South during Operation Dixie in hopes of shaking their resolve. (Photo by David Haberstich. Courtesy of Donald McKee.)
This flyer was an effort to mobilize racial prejudice against the CIO. The irony here is that the Tobacco Workers International Union under criticism was an AFL, not CIO, affiliate, one which did not share the CIO’s progressive position on inter-racial organizing. (Photo by David Haberstich. Courtesy of Donald McKee.)
A sign outside one of the CIO Organizing Committee’s offices in North Carolina during Operation Dixie. (Photo by Herman R. Parrott. George Meany Memorial Archives.)
Members of the United Packinghouse Workers of America, Local 309, on strike against the W. W. Pickle Company in Montgomery, Alabama, on December 17, 1951. (Photo by Lasse-Film Center. UPWA Collection, SLA.)
Handbill distributed by the CIO prior to union elections. (CIO Organizing Committee, North Carolina Papers, ODA.)
A handbill distributed by the CIO’s Textile Workers Union of America. (CIO Organizing Committee, North Carolina Papers, ODA.)
CIO publicity photo of two workers holding checks for back pay totaling $850. for wages they lost after being fired for union activity by the Lenoir Mirror Co. in Lenoir, N.C. (CIO Publicity Department, North Carolina Papers, ODA.)
Red, white, and blue badge distributed by the CIO prior to union elections. (CIO Organizing Committee, North Carolina Papers, ODA.)
Handbill distributed by the CIO prior to union elections. (CIO Organizing Committee, North Carolina Papers, ODA.)
Handbill distributed by the CIO prior to union elections. (CIO Organizing Committee, North Carolina Papers, ODA.)
Meeting of an International Woodworkers of America local, most probably the local at Greene Brothers Lumber Co. in Elizabethtown, N.C. (CIO Organizing Committee. North Carolina Papers, ODA.)
Anti-CIO flyer circulated during Operation Dixie, connecting union activity with Communism and the familiar image of exploitive Northerners. (Photo by David Haberstich. Courtesy of Donald McKee.)