In the end, calm and quiet closed over Operation Dixie, leaving the South, to all appearances, pretty much as it had been before. Business domination of politics and the economy continued unabated. Racial segregation remained the way of life. In soft Southern accents, “Dixiecrat” politicians still demonstrated their legendary parliamentary skill in the U.S. Senate and on key House committees. Their long association with Republicans in the majority conservative coalition in Congress continued to shape the limits of policy debate in twentieth-century America. A chastened CIO, finding itself in increasing agreement with AFL conservatives, completed its evolution from industrial unionism to business unionism by merging with the craft unions in a reunited AFL-CIO in 1956. The South’s premier industry, textiles, remained overwhelmingly nonunion and the region’s workers maintained their status as the nation’s lowest paid employees.
As a large-scale organizing campaign Operation Dixie died in December 1946 when the organizing staff was cut in half. Organizers for left-wing unions, under attack in the CIO, pulled out of the Southern drive by degrees in 1947–1948. The UAW, whose funds and technical advice had been a significant force, left in 1948. The same year, the Southern Organizing Committee ceased functioning in Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi. Alabama was abandoned in 1949. A desultory effort continued in the rest of the South until Operation Dixie was officially closed in 1953. In the course of these efforts, the CIO made a summary conclusion on the subject of hiring Southern organizers to combat the charge of “outside agitators.” In the staff retrenchment that came at the end of 1946, the CIO completely deemphasized the hiring of Southern staff. Experience, not regional affiliation, became the sole criterion.1
In 1949, Southern membership in the CIO was no greater than the 400,000 total that had existed on the day when George Baldanzi opened the Atlanta office of Operation Dixie in 1946. To the prewar Southern membership in textiles of 27,750, another 42,450 were added during the war. Thus at the outset of Operation Dixie, TWUA counted 70,200 in a work force of approximately 580,000. Four years later, TWUA workers covered under Southern contracts totaled 81,095. The Southern drive had added a mere 10,805. In 1949, Emil Rieve, president of the TWUA, forthrightly conceded that “we are worse off today in the South than we have been” and added that the TWUA’s influence in the textile industry “is probably less today than it was a few years ago.”2
The failure of Operation Dixie raised the most central questions about workers, about the CIO, and about the American labor movement in general. In the spring of 1946, hopes had been high; in the autumn, all was doubt and confusion. Had the union encountered a part of America that was organically resistant to it? Had Southern working people, so shortly removed from the heritage of land tenantry and sharecropping, silently absorbed a tradition of submission and defeat, of resignation and apathy? Had evangelical religion somehow undermined people’s capacity for self-help, even as it consoled them and uplifted the spirit? Was race somehow an insuperable barrier? Was something called “the Southern heritage” in all of its manifestations—religious, racial, and individualistic—a force so powerful it overwhelmed the small groups of organizers the CIO dispatched throughout the region? Had a hierarchy of caste and class, nurtured by an aggressive corporate environment, simply proven too strong?
Or was the fault within the labor movement itself? Was it too traditional and bureaucratic? Or perhaps too ideological and radical? Was it cynical, innocent, or otherwise, as the saying goes, incapable of meeting the demands of history? Hovering over Operation Dixie from beginning to end was the enormous political, cultural, and economic power mobilized by Southern corporations. And giving an especially sharp definition to the struggle was the ruthless intransigence of the Southern mill owners. Their contempt for the CIO was an expression of their contempt for the “white trash” who worked for them.
In addition, it must be remembered that the specific shape of the events of 1946 was not the product of that year alone. Many generations of life in the South had gone into the creation of the arrogance of the mill owner. The social values and habits of the Southern elite had been crafted over many generations during which a rigid hierarchy had been fashioned by a few, presided over by a few, and enforced with privately controlled police power. In conduct, as in allegiance, the “patty rollers” who protected against runaway slaves were brothers under the skin to the mill village sheriffs who protected the textile company against the restless “lint-heads.” The naked mechanisms of social control that enforced inherited class and caste relations in Southern mill villages were of a kind and type that went beyond the imagination of most Americans. As a genteel Southern lawyer, sobered over time by the cold fury of mill village justice and law enforcement, remembered forty years after Operation Dixie, “Those fellows from Michigan and Pennsylvania who came down here were astounded at what we were running into. And I guess they still are.”3 A student of the textile industry, similarly sobered by the implications of his own research, settled upon the words “hostility,” “absolute rule,” “total control,” and “intransigence” as the most appropriate descriptions of the conduct of textile management with respect to trade unions.4 A black organizer in lumbering reflected on other patterns: “There was a meanness about these policemen. A special meanness. It came from a long way back, you know.”5 In overt and in subtle ways, Operation Dixie encountered a kind of resistance that “came from a long way back.”
Yet factors within the CIO itself also helped defeat the drive, although to give them too much of the responsibility would imply that had a slightly different path been taken, Operation Dixie would have had a radically different result. The evidence does not support such a conclusion. Had the South been organizable through sheer will and effort, the CIO staff of 1946 possessed enough of these qualities to have succeeded. One comes away from a prolonged study of the people and events that formed the day-to-day life of Operation Dixie with the settled feeling that the men and women of the CIO cared enough, and tried hard enough. But more than will was required.
At the institutional core of the Southern drive was the Textile Workers Union of America. The TWUA invested the most time and resources of all the CIO internationals and it was the organizing teams in textiles that were buffeted most disastrously by the hurricane of opposition that became the decisive force in Operation Dixie. Fashioning a judicious appraisal of the TWUA is necessarily a complex process, for the union lived in an industrial environment that was different from that of most CIO internationals. The single most influential difference was the structure of the textile industry itself. Made up of thousands of relatively small production units (even “giants” such as Cannon with its 25,000 workers could not be compared to U.S. Steel or General Motors), the textile industry was authentically competitive in ways that the oligopolistic industries of steel, auto, and rubber were not. For both management and labor, the acceptance of the administrative apparatus of collective bargaining was an historic compromise that was much more practically achieved in industries dominated by three or four giant producers than was the case in textiles. Textile producers lived closer to the margin, were perennially short of capital and, thus, incorporated a number of competitive dynamics that encouraged an intransigent antilabor attitude.
Prior to the coming of the CIO, the United Textile Workers (AFL) under Frank Gorman never developed effective organizing momentum, and the great uprising from below in the South of 1934 caught the leadership by surprise. The most successful organizers in textiles were Emil Rieve and George Baldanzi, and they quickly rose to leadership after Sidney Hillman put together the Textile Workers Organizing Committee under the CIO in 1937. The union contracts subsequently won in the North came after hard struggles and yielded contracts at levels below those obtained in the nation’s other major industries. After many defeats, the union developed a methodical approach that struck its friends as prudent and its critics as cautious. However characterized, the day-to-day organizing life in textiles did not encourage union activists to have stars in their eyes.
When the union first systematically began to turn its attention to the South during World War II, it encountered a world even more resistant than that presided over by the mill barons of New England. The hierarchical nature of Southern society, grounded in an authoritarian racial caste system and protected by docile religious and journalistic institutions ready to provide serviceable apologetics on demand, assisted in fortifying across the region a deep hostility to the TWUA. Demagogic attacks, grounded in provincial attitudes, could always be effectively mounted against “outsiders” with names like Baldanzi, Rieve, and Bittner.
Faced with such an implacable and elaborately armed industrial opposition, the TWUA had difficulty fashioning a clear organizing strategy in the South. It had difficulty assessing the Southern working class as well. “The Southern Textile Worker is a small-town, suspicious individual, who is extremely provincial, petty, gossip-mongering, who is completely isolated and knows only his mill.” In the late 1930s, such was the settled conclusion of a highly placed textile union official, Solomon Barkin, research director of the TWUA in New York. Southerners were “easy prey to explosive situations” and therefore too much should not be read into those occasions when they mounted strikes in mill villages. Such incidents needed to be understood as a moment of “novelty” in the dull life of the mill town. “For the most part,” Barkin believed at the time, Southern mill hands were “mute and undisciplined.”6
While Barkin was committing his thoughts to paper in 1939, a Southern journalist was giving even more elaborate expression to the same ideas in a manuscript that would be published the following year. W. J. Cash’s The Mind of the South was a sustained attempt to explain the peculiarities of the region and its people. Cash, too, wrestled with the apparent paradox of working-class deference on the one hand and, on the other, abundant evidence of assertion, sometimes violent assertion, by the same people. As observers, both Barkin and Cash noted the oral traditions of Southern society and the generally low level of education that yielded very little in the way of written evidence about popular belief. In Barkin’s phrase, Southern mill workers were in that sense “mute.”
A different kind of “distancing” from Southern workers was visible in the views of others who defended mill workers by romanticizing them. George Baldanzi found in the South “a much greater appreciation of human values than is found in the North.” Southerners, he believed, were “by nature kindly,” were “strongly religious,” and tended to “react to human tragedy with a sort of calm fatalism.” In a judgment he otherwise did not elaborate upon, Baldanzi saw Southern textile workers, provincial though they were, as representing “the best of what remains of truly American folklore.”7
Aside from such excursions into remote theorizing, the textile leadership came under criticism for being physically remote from the daily struggles of Operation Dixie. Bittner, Baldanzi, and the Atlanta office in its entirety were criticized for being an elite “palace guard,” out of touch with grass roots realities. Bittner “didn’t have the contacts and experience” to analyze the South with sophistication. The initial fanfare surrounding the launching of the campaign was, in retrospect, also seen as an error “that instantly put people on their guard, and made the South as a whole defensive.” Such propaganda produced by the CIO leadership was seen as “talking to their own people rather than to the public, and the newspapers really dressed it up, calling it an ‘invasion.’”8 The problem, many believed, began with the name itself. “Operation Dixie” almost seemed to beg the opposition to employ the “invasion” metaphor.9 Southern organizers agreed: The CIO leadership “advertised” too much, and in the wrong way. “Here comes Sherman’s army again! Be ready!”10 The effect was to “immediately put people on the defensive.”11 The result was a “damn tragic error.”12
Internal dialogue in labor’s ranks about such tactical matters was fundamentally unbalanced. Northern organizers had, in effect, scalps on their belts, and could turn aside unwanted advice from Southern staffers with an incontrovertible fact: “Look, I organized 30,000 workers in Pittsburgh (or Detroit, or Akron) and what have you people done down here?” As a Southern organizer explained years later, “There was no answer for that, because what they said was true.”13
Clearly, the entire issue surrounding the proper initial “positioning” of the Southern campaign, one that might be summarized as a debate over a “high-profile” or “low-profile” approach, sheds significant light on the condition of the American labor movement in the immediate aftermath of World War II. Baldanzi was right on two counts. The campaign needed Southern organizers who understood the local culture; it also needed programmatically experienced Northern organizers to bring coherence to the organizing process. But the debate that took place over what to call the campaign, and how to present it to the American and Southern public, also revealed that Southern CIO staff members were to have little prestige and thus little decision-making power within the campaign itself. If the Northern model of “transforming” victories did not quite fit the realities at work in the Southern textile industry, there was no Southern dissenter with enough internal clout in the CIO to prevail at the level of policy.
What overall final appraisal can be made of these internal disputes? Northern organizers did have more experience; they did “know more.” The inexperience of Southern organizers was a constantly recurring problem. At the height of the organizing drive in the heart of textile country in 1946, the North Carolina state director, William Smith, felt it necessary to remind his predominantly Southern-born staff of the most basic rules of organizing. He complained that the Kannapolis staff was carrying on a recruitment campaign “without any method or purpose other than [to] sign up as many workers as possible.” He insisted that this technique left the CIO with only “an unorganized crowd of card-signers.” Smith’s instructions to the Kannapolis staff concentrated on the most elementary truths: “You should, right at the outset of any organizing drive, concentrate on setting up committees in every department and on every shift. Make this your number one job in beginning any organizing drive. Don’t try to do it all alone. Do it through and with the committees, and it will be done better and much sooner. Don’t be a LONE RANGER. Organize your work and your work will be organized.”14
Smith wrote at a pivotal moment in the textile campaign, which was, itself, the critical center of Operation Dixie. It is important to assess precisely what had gone wrong by the time he wrote these exasperated instructions on August 5, 1946. It is also vital to isolate precisely what Smith’s textile organizing staff was failing to achieve that, as the CIO’s experience taught, needed to be achieved. In short, organizing doctrine (the CIO’s institutional memory) and operational conduct (running the Southern campaign) merged at Kannapolis in August in ways that revealed the strategic and tactical trauma of the American labor movement in 1946.
It is necessary to pull together a number of threads imbedded both in the history of Operation Dixie and in the formative years of the CIO in order to detect the unraveling of the labor movement and the dissipation of its energy that began in 1946. The CIO’s own contributions to the failure of Operation Dixie arose from hazards found within every organization. In military terms, “doctrine” can be defined as that strategy that has worked most effectively before and has, as a result, become the conventional wisdom. Thus do military organizations prepare to fight the last war. The CIO was hamstrung by the same dynamic, facing new conditions but armed with the tactics that had proven most successful in the last “war.” Unfortunately, these tactics were the legacy of a Northern encounter, a society not matched by what the CIO found in the South. Nor was the surrounding climate of 1946 the same one in which the CIO’s conventional wisdom had developed in the Depression. As a group possessing an institutional memory, the CIO was really quite young in 1946. Its essential organizing experience had been packed into the eventful five-year period between 1936 and 1941. In that brief period, the CIO had organized much of America’s industrial work force that was concentrated in the steel, auto, rubber, and electrical industries. The only major American industry that remained unorganized was textiles.
Yet broad as it must have seemed, this sweeping organizing experience was really quite narrow in terms of the tactics it employed. The sit-down strikes of the 1930s—often conducted by a small and militant sector of the work force—brought major companies to a standstill. After a tense period of confrontation, the new unions were recognized. Even where the sit-downs were massive and involved large numbers of workers, participants were incorporated quickly, as part of the euphoria of the “sit-down era.”
It is important to specify that it was not the sit-downs per se that constituted the essence of the “Northern model” that the CIO followed; rather, it was the transforming impact on the potential for organizing that was achieved by unionizing a bellwether company in a bellwether industry. This achievement, whether it was through a sit-down or not, sent a transforming message of possibility to every unorganized worker in every smaller plant in the affected industry. Such a circumstance could, in a moment, rally thousands of workers to the union cause. It could, in short, overcome worker deference and “fear.” In the late 1930s, the industrial rank and file was not so much recruited to the CIO as it was mobilized for a particularly dramatic kind of job action. This mobilization was in part an emotional response to a particular time, the Depression, and to a particular place, highly centralized mass production industry with choke points that could be shut down to cripple the entire operation. The infancy of Southern industry made such action impossible. Thus, twentieth-century tactics that had produced dazzling Northern successes could not bridge the gap to a region languishing, in many respects, in the nineteenth century.
Had the CIO been able to effect a “transforming” breakthrough in any of the region’s textile giants, perhaps Southern workers by the hundreds of thousands could have been mobilized to join the CIO. To have been “transforming” in this sense, the breakthrough victory would have had to be a decisive one over a powerful and widely known company. Anything less could not be expected to change rapidly the calculus of power between Southern industry and labor. The “Northern model” of attacking the bellwether textile plants, then, was one that fired the imagination and determination of both organizers and workers.
In the absence of such a galvanizing experience, the difference between temporary mobilization and permanent recruitment became quite clear. Instead of rapidly pulling enthusiastic masses of previously unorganized workers to the cause, as it did in the Northern sit-downs, the CIO in the South would be forced slowly, painfully to recruit skeptical workers—one union card at a time. Many of those Southern workers the CIO tried to organize were in the most secure positions they and their families had ever known. Most of them constituted the first generation to look to factory work as a way out of the mountains or off the farm. Without a clear demonstration of the advantages of union membership—one that did not exist in the South—workers proved reluctant to risk the present for the unknown benefits of an uncertain future. Lacking a striking Southern success to which it could point in trying to convince Southern workers that a union was an attainable goal, the CIO’s only recourse lay in the long-term education of unorganized workers to the benefits of union membership. In the end, the CIO could neither mobilize nor recruit Southern workers who were seemingly impervious to its educational campaign.
Simply put, the CIO faced the central organizing dilemma: one cannot want for people what circumstances do not encourage them to want for themselves. As a result, in case after case across the South, it became evident that the CIO’s inability to get off the ground by forming in-plant committees forced CIO staffers into trying to organize Southern workers’ unions for them—a tactic that most organizers agreed could never really be expected to produce a high rate of success. In August 1946, North Carolina’s embattled state director lectured the Kannapolis staff on the need to avoid behaving like “lone rangers” and to proceed with the organization of in-plant committees. But if one fact was clear from the reports of the previous nine weeks of effort (however elliptical those reports might have been in terms of numbers of signed union cards), it was that the Kannapolis staff could not fashion reliable in-plant committees. Staff organizers therefore functioned as “lone rangers” out of necessity, rather than choice. In the absence, then, of a transforming breakthrough, the CIO had to recruit rather than mobilize. And to recruit they had first to educate the workers. Unfortunately, the CIO had neither the time nor resources for such a necessarily lengthy “educational” campaign. “Education” involved many ingredients—a knowledge of what other American workers under CIO leadership had done for themselves, the management tactics that had to be overcome, the worker solidarity that had to be built, specific steps toward building it, and all the other components of American labor’s collective experience that bore directly on the task at hand in the South. In essence, “education” could be summarized as a believable blueprint for action—one that sustained hope among powerless people.
But unable to do what would work, the CIO’s effort consisted of an amalgam of techniques that might work: an educational effort wherever workers were ready to listen; continued attempts to achieve a “transforming” breakthrough in places like Kannapolis or Avondale that might mobilize large numbers; and the quiet, methodical signing of workers in smaller plants.
The great days of the 1930s had been days of mobilization; in the South, the more pedestrian future turned on steady numerical recruitment. The time would come—by 1946 for some, and by the late 1940s for almost everyone—when CIO leaders would “read” organizers’ reports with an eye to what the reports meant in terms of permanent recruitment. They would look for and demand that reports reflected the completion of sequential organizing tasks and that results would focus on numbers rather than on description. The presence or absence of signed CIO cards and accompanying initiation fees verified whether recruitment was taking place in a given organizing campaign. Hundreds of organizers’ reports during the decisive first six months of Operation Dixie in 1946 are filled with narrative rather than numbers. The CIO leadership’s demands for numbers had not yet become an institutional cornerstone of CIO practice. In any event, as Operation Dixie proceeded in the South, the numbers were not there to report.
It may be noted in passing that judgments as to whether a given organizer’s report represented “creative rhetoric” or a serious narrative about organizing in-plant committees depended on the specific tactical and strategic situation at the time a report was written. In mid-July 1946, in Kannapolis, after weeks of sustained organizing efforts by the largest staff in the South, it was ominous to discover the local lead organizer explaining the absence of signed cards as a function of the staff’s preoccupation with (still) trying to set up in-plant committees. The same report, written in the first week of June, would have been far more understandable. The essential point, applicable throughout the crucial summer of 1946, was that the fundamental organizational distinctions between “recruitment” on the one hand and “mobilization” based on a transforming victory on the other were not clearly understood by most organizers at most levels of either the CIO or textile union hierarchy.
No quick fix can be suggested that might have changed the outcome of Operation Dixie. Economic power in the South was too closely interwoven with local governments, newspapers, police forces, and religious leaders; together, they were able to mobilize a level of opposition that the CIO did not have the cultural credibility to defeat. Moreover, even had the CIO somehow been able to withstand the coordinated corporate assault, it still had the internal problem—the massively debilitating internal problem—that grew out of deeply embedded Southern traditions on race. At its best the CIO stood for a restructuring of race relations that would not gain ground anywhere in America until the civil rights movement some twenty years later.
Beyond these problems, sobering as they were, was an ideological dilemma that generated the most dismaying kinds of political problems. The CIO’s origins and its goal of organizing all industrial workers necessitated some kind of approach that could transcend ethnic and racial barriers and ideological divisions. This reality set in motion a certain leftward dynamic that harmonized badly with the conservative postwar national political climate. Taking all these factors into account, it cannot be regarded as a surprise that the CIO’s Southern drive failed.
Once established and with a collective self-image, organizations become increasingly invested in preserving their place in society. As a result, voices from the far corners of the organization are seen as troublesome, and therefore as ever less legitimate; and bad news that runs counter to the collective self-image is less and less welcome. An antidemocratic dynamic evolves as less diversity of opinion is permitted at the top levels of leadership. The lower the level of internal democracy, the less likely that organization is to entertain conflicting reports from the field. To remain successful in democratic terms, an organization needs to be self-regenerating, creating an institutional climate that allows for change from “the bottom” and encourages creativity at “the top.” Such an institutional climate is conceivable, though rarely attained in history to date, in or out of labor movements.
Organizations whose members see themselves as “progressive” are in no sense immunized against this evolving dynamic of institutional rigidity. Even revolutions, once deemed “successful” by those in charge, are institutionalized in order to preserve their gains and secure the new order. This dynamic is clearly at work in the CIO’s purge of its own left wing in the late 1940s, and earlier when locals of left-wing unions were raided by internationals to their right on the political spectrum. True, in the late 1940s the national political climate was such that the threat to the CIO’s respectability was great, and the pressure to purge those internationals was intense. And clearly, many committed labor activists saw the purge as the only chance to salvage any position at all for the CIO in the increasingly constricted national political and economic order. However, during this process the organizing energy of those left-wing internationals was lost; ironically, it was those same unions, racially innovative as they were, that had done the most to begin chipping away at the intricate hierarchical structure of Southern economic and social relations. There was, of course, a countervailing irony; the left-led unions, dutifully tracking Soviet foreign policy without consulting the local membership, were caught in their own hierarchical assumptions.
If anything, the ideological struggle in the CIO eventually encouraged each faction to turn inward, to become more secular and—a by-product—more righteous about its own past policies. Worse, ideology provided an institutional way not to hear criticism. The TWUA habitually turned away criticism of its own ponderous approach by viewing such criticism as reflecting merely the “biased” or “doctrinaire” opinion of “radicals.” Transparently, left-led unions did regard the Baldanzis of the TWUA with contempt. But awkwardly for the TWUA’s self-image, so did Southern-born liberals such as Jim Pierce of the CWA, who regarded the union as structurally and operationally “weak.” Said Pierce:
The Textile Workers could never decide to do anything, or how to do it, and still can’t. Back and forth, back and forth. They get militant for a few days; then somebody hits them and they slump back down. That has its effect on people. Union representatives can only be really good if they’ve got good strong unions to back them up. And they didn’t have it in textiles.15
There is an irony here that seldom is a feature of internal debates within the world of trade unionism. The steel and autoworkers who came South to convey the Northern model of organizing to Operation Dixie’s Southern cadres, as well as Southerners like Pierce from mass-based industries, possessed a view of organizational possibility that was simply not a part of the heritage of textile organizing. This sense of possibility was part of the strength of unions like the UAW, but it was derived from grandly successful experiences that had no real counterpart in the history of the TWUA. Veteran textile organizers had learned to roll with the punches; those who could not simply left. The style that eventually came to characterize the union reflected these dynamics. Such modes of procedure made men like Jim Pierce impatient and induced in radicals like John Russell and Karl Korstad something approaching a state of controlled rage.
But the old hands of the TWUA had learned, in bitter defeats in New England as well as in the South, that mill owners were different from other “captains of industry.” Less secure than most, they were, in the words of a black organizer, “meaner” than most. Whether one like the style of the TWUA or not, that style was a product of experiences that had been internalized over two generations of disappointing organizing campaigns.
What can be said about the TWUA and about the participants in every other union in Operation Dixie is that they brought a certain kind of dignified hope for a better life into the corners of the South that no one else had ever visited. Granted, this hope was not encased in a perfect institutional vehicle. Granted, the people in Operation Dixie did not always perform unerringly. Nevertheless, it is possible to agree with a summary judgment of Alabama’s Frank Parker who said: “I lived through the whole thing. I was in the movement before it started. And I was in the movement after it was over. And I’m happy they came. I’m happy they helped. But it could have been better.”16
In the modern era of global markets and multinational corporations, the old militants in America’s mass production industries have been thrown on the defensive. Hard-won wage levels have been taken away, job security destroyed, and hopes for a new kind of “economic democracy” shattered. It has all been very sobering—rather like a textile organizer’s experience, one might say.
Forty years after the fact, it seems clear that the high tide of American labor came in the 1935–1945 decade, when labor’s long-held dream of a new day for industrial workers seemed to be in sight. Beyond matters of wages and working conditions, the conceptions of society embedded in that dream were generous, egalitarian, and democratic. In the highly stratified corporate world of the 1980s, critical components of the dream, as well as the relationship of organized labor to the dream itself, have become quite problematic.
Operation Dixie happened at the moment of labor’s apogee when hopes were still lofty but when resources had begun to shrink and the corporate opposition had armed itself for a massive counterattack. All the tensions implicit in such a pivotal historical turning point surfaced in Operation Dixie. The legacy has been a bitter one, for within the ranks of the trade union movement, there were no winners, only losers. For American labor, Operation Dixie was, quite simply, a moment of high tragedy from which it has yet to fully recover.