Summary Of Michael K. Honey's Southern Labor

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In Michael K. Honey 's book Southern Labor and Black Civil Rights: Organizing Memphis Workers, Honey analyzes the various labor movements that occurred throughout Memphis, Tennessee in the 1930 's, 40 's, and 50 's. Throughout his book, we are introduced to key players such as "Boss" Ed Crump, the bias police, the AFL, George Bass, Thomas Watkins, and other organizers, and possibly the most important to the labor movement, the CIO (Congress of Industrial Organizers). Memphis acts as the backdrop of the war between labor rights and traditional, Southern labor standards. Memphis, like the majority of the South, was ruled by an elitist few, that fed off of the Jim Crow lifestyle. Memphis was led by "Boss" Ed Crump. Crump maintained control by…show more content…
Although, because of his work, Watkins and his family would be chased out of Memphis, he would not be the only one to leave behind a positive legacy in the Memphis union organization movement. Memphis would be further inspired by leaders who stood up to organize the local Firestone Tire and Rubber Company. Local CIO supporters believed that if they could organize workers in "one big industrial plant, those in smaller industries might begin to organize (150)." Firestone became a symbol for union organizers everywhere. No one had ever attempted to organize a big company like this, and the CIO was in for a difficult ride. Firestone, like many other southern companies, controlled its employees using different wage standards for different races, but ultimately keeping wages at half of what the workers were making up North. The company would push racial separation, often instilling in the white workers, the fear of the black man getting to unionize. If the black man could unionize (through the CIO), then he could go after the white man 's job. This would keep many whites from joining the CIO, and the fight to unionize Firestone, but many still joined because of the "hardships of work (154)." George Bass, an United Rubber Workers ' organizer, would help take the charge of unionizing Firestone. In his first two weeks, he signed up eight hundred out of two thousand workers (mostly black) at Firestone (155). This success was met with threats of his life, and an attempt to blow up his car with him inside. Bass would not back down, and inspired others to do the same. This would lead to others having the courage to hand out leaflets and pamphlets promoting union organization, something that would have never happened before at such a large company. Bass would be beaten again, and this would only further inspire unionists. Firestone worker, J.R. Carroll drove his car between unionists and assailants to protect the unionists from an oncoming attack (160). The Bass beatings
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