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Communities In Economic Crisis

Communities In Economic Crisis

Paula Rayman
Carmen Sirianni
Copyright Date: 1990
Published by: Temple University Press
Pages: 360
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  • Book Info
    Communities In Economic Crisis
    Book Description:

    Hard times are no stranger to the people of Appalachia and the South. Earlier books have documented the low wages of the textile industry, boom-and-bust cycles of coal mining, and debt peonage of Southern agriculture that have established a heritage of poverty that endures. This book is a unique collection of essays by people who are actively involved in the efforts to challenge economic injustice in these regions and to empower the residents to build democratic alternatives.In the seriesLabor and Social Change, edited by Paula Rayman and Carmen Sirianni.

    eISBN: 978-1-4399-0167-0
    Subjects: Sociology, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
    (pp. xiii-2)
    JPG, BES and AWW
    (pp. 3-14)

    Change is afoot in communities across Appalachia and the South. For nearly a decade, poor and working-class Southerners have endured the most severe economic dislocation since the Great Depression. Despair and resignation have been common responses among some to unemployment, eviction, and a reduced standard of living, but now defiance and solidarity have begun to spread. Maxine Waller, a thirty-eight-year-old woman from southwestern Virginia, gives voice to this shift in the political mood, now emerging in communities across the region.

    According to current statistics and economic trends, there is little cause for hope. The present hardship is not the temporary...

  6. PART I Case Studies of Crisis and Struggle

    • Case Studies from Central Appalachia

      • [Introduction]
        (pp. 17-18)

        Beneath the rugged mountains of central Appalachia lies some of the highest-quality bituminous coal in the world. Geology has also endowed the area with oil, natural gas, carbide, and other natural resources. Extractive industries based on these resources—above all, bituminous coalmining—have been the dominant force in the area’s economic and political life for a century.

        Unlike much of the rest of the South, the central Appalachian coalfields, particularly in West Virginia, have a long tradition of strong trade unionism. Bloody confrontations over union recognition erupted at Matewan, Paint Creek, Harlan, and elsewhere during the first decades of this...

      • CHAPTER 1 “It Has to Come from the People”: Responding to Plant Closings in Ivanhoe, Virginia
        (pp. 19-28)
        Maxine Waller, Helen M. Lewis, Clare McBrien and Carroll L. Wessinger

        In September 1986 the people of Ivanhoe, Virginia, formed the Ivanhoe Civic League for one purpose: to stop Wythe and Carroll counties from selling an abandoned, overgrown industrial park. The park had been left to the local industrial development authorities twenty years earlier, when National Carbide, long the town’s major employer, closed down its operation. The announcement that the property was for sale was the signal that local economic development officials were giving up all hope of locating another industry for the community.

        In response, the residents of Ivanhoe began a citizens’ campaign to revitalize the dying town. Their efforts...

      • CHAPTER 2 People Power: Working for the Future In the East Kentucky Coalfields
        (pp. 29-37)
        Kristin Layng Szakos

        Mountains laid bare and barren by strip mining; absentee mineral owners in far-away boardrooms making decisions that take no account of the needs of the people living on the land; poor schools turning out poor people dependent on coalmining for their livelihood; mechanization in the mines driving unemployment rates over 30 percent—these problems of central Appalachia have been well documented in the books and articles that have been pouring out since the region was “rediscovered” twenty-five years ago during the War on Poverty.¹

        Less noted are the stories of the people working to solve the problems and change the...

      • CHAPTER 3 Voices from the Coalfields: How Miners’ Families Understand the Crisis of Coal
        (pp. 38-52)
        Mike Yarrow

        Millions of Americans have had to make major adjustments in their strategies for living because whole industries have gone into long-term decline. One of the most rapid declines has been in metallurgical coalmining. With the dismantling of the American steel industry and the increasing competition on the international market, demand and price have plummeted, followed by massive layoffs. Since miners, by achieving living wages, safer working conditions, pensions, and better health care for their families and communities, have inspired the efforts of others, the destruction of their gains is doubly tragic.

        The miners’ world has been changing drastically in the...

      • CHAPTER 4 Women Miners Can Dig It, Too!
        (pp. 53-60)
        Betty Jean Hall

        Founded by women who grew up in the Appalachian coalfields, the Coal Employment Project (CEP) has been working since 1977 to help women claim their rightful place in the well-paid coal industry.¹ Today, its work extends from the coalfields of Utah to West Virginia. It has become a symbol for the proposition that there is no job some women can’t do.

        CEP was born when the staffs from two public-interest groups in Jacksboro, Tennessee—Save Our Cumberland Mountains (SOCM) and the now-defunct East Tennessee Research Corporation—wanted to go on a tour of an underground coalmine.

        The staff members contacted...

      • CHAPTER 5 Organizing Women for Local Economic Development
        (pp. 61-70)
        Chris Weiss

        For the last fifteen years, my family and I have lived on a 260-acre farm in rural Lincoln County, West Virginia. As many rural women do, I commute to the city of Charleston to earn my living. When I describe our family’s farm to others, I usually explain that only about 30 of these acres are flat; the rest you can lean on. We do some farming, but it is mostly to supplement our family food budget. We can vegetables and fruit and raise our own beef, like many other families in our small community. I worked in the city...

    • Case Studies from the Piedmont

      • [Introduction]
        (pp. 71-72)

        South of the steepest mountains of the central Appalachian coalfields lie the Piedmont regions of North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and Kentucky. Historically, they have relied on both manufacturing and agriculture for their development. As industry came to the Piedmont, attracted by community concessions and cheap labor, the area saw the development of the worker—farmer, who worked both on the land and in the factories to survive.

        In the 1980s, with changes in the national and international economy, plant closings have swept through many communities of the region. Many companies have moved operations overseas or simply closed because of international...

      • CHAPTER 6 Organizing Rural Tobacco Farmers: Central Kentucky in Global Context
        (pp. 73-84)
        Hal Hamilton

        The South and Appalachia are rooted in the land. Farms and small towns permeate the region and its culture, and agriculture still underpins portions of the economy.

        Across the United States, however, the family-farm system is undergoing its most sustained and profound crisis of the century. The farm crisis has also come to the upper South. The symptoms are many: foreclosures, boarded-up small-town businesses, soil erosion on unkept land. Economic transformation is wrecking rural agricultural communities just as certainly as the loss of mining or textile jobs has devastated other communities in the region.

        This chapter focuses on the farm...

      • CHAPTER 7 From the Mountains to the Maquiladoras: A Case Study of Capital Flight and Its Impact on Workers
        (pp. 85-95)
        John Gaventa

        In recent years the U.S. economy has lost hundreds of thousands of jobs in manufacturing. According to a study by the Office of Technology Assessment, in the years between 1979 and 1985, 11.5 million workers lost their jobs as companies decided to shut down or relocate manufacturing plants, increase productivity, or shrink output. These plant closings and layoffs have prompted warnings of the “deindustrialization of America,” and have caused major disruptions in workers’ lives, ranging from long-and short-term unemployment, underemployment, foreclosures, and associated family stress.¹

        Until recently, the South was often thought to be exempt from these trends. In fact,...

      • CHAPTER 8 Betrayal of Trust: The Impact of Economic Development Policy upon Working Citizens
        (pp. 96-107)
        John Bookser-Feister and Leah Wise

        In an era when most regions of the United States are undergoing major economic transition, we might look to the South for ideas on hownotto pursue regional economic development. Contrary to some popular myths outside our region, economic development practices in the “New South” have had mixed results: jobs have been imported from other areas, but mostly they have been low-wage and often physically dangerous. Regressive economic development policies mean that state governments are unashamedly pro-business, and local government leaders are either acquiescent or just plain ignorant. Working people—the vast majority of Southerners—are left without protection...

      • CHAPTER 9 Worker Organizing in South Carolina: A Community-Based Approach
        (pp. 108-119)
        Charles D. M. Taylor

        Southern workers are facing immense challenges brought on by rapid technological change and an increasingly global economy. Unfortunately, they are in a weak position to respond to these challenges because of the South’s unique history of economic oppression. South Carolina, for example, has consistently ranked near the bottom in per capita income, and dead last in the percentage of nonagricultural workers in unions and in voter participation. A dismal working climate is maintained by anti–union industry groups such as the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce, which has been called the state’s fourth branch of government.

        One unanticipated consequence of...

      • [Illustrations]
        (pp. None)
    • Case Studies from the Deep South

      • [Introduction]
        (pp. 121-122)

        The solid south has never been as solid as some have made it out to be. Within the South itself, there are differences even on the importance of race—the central issue in regional history. Areas in the Deep South have more of an emotional and political stake in white–supremacist attitudes and in the range of symbols associated with the “Lost Cause,” as the Civil War Confederacy came to be known. South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana are normally viewed as the Deep South. Other states in the region (“border” or “peripheral” states), while experiencing racial segregation and...

      • CHAPTER 10 Voting Rights and Community Empowerment: Political Struggle in the Georgia Black Belt
        (pp. 123-137)
        Alex Willingham

        The American Black Belt historically has been characterized by a classic dilemma: a biracial population with a black majority dominated in all social institutions by the white minority.¹ The mode of domination has been under intense pressure since midcentury from a civil rights movement designed to reclaim the citizenship rights of the black population. School segregation, unequal and segregated public accommodations, and denial of voting rights—key props in the system of Black Belt domination—have been eliminated. The social system that long held the black population in menial status is being transformed.

        Change is occurring in towns and rural...

      • CHAPTER 11 Race, Development, and the Character of Black Political Life in Bogalusa, Louisiana
        (pp. 138-145)
        Rickey Hill

        In recent years, the transformation of race relations has been the most dramatic change in the social conditions of small towns in the Deep South. Black citizens in these communities have acted purposefully to end segregation and racial domination. Hope among all rural Southerners has been fueled by the removal of race as a deterrent to overall economic development. In Bogalusa, Louisiana, a small Pearl River town of 20,000, significant change has occurred, allowing us to rethink the impact of changing race relations on larger strategies for social development.

        Civil rights action in Bogalusa captured the attention of the nation...

      • CHAPTER 12 Economic Slavery or Hazardous Wastes? Robeson County’s Economic Menu
        (pp. 146-157)
        Richard Regan and Mac Legerton

        It is three–fourths the size of Rhode Island. It is 90 percent forests and farmland, with a subtropical climate. Wages are low, unemployment is high. The economy is based on production of cash crops and industrial goods that are marketed and sold by outside business interests. People of color make up 63 percent of the population. Three out of four workers who are persons of color are employed in low–wage jobs. Five separate school systems were only recently merged as a result of a local referendum; there are four interspaced phone districts, and no system of public transportation...

      • CHAPTER 13 The Mayhaw Tree: An Informal Case Study in Homegrown Rural Economic Development
        (pp. 158-170)
        Ralph Hils

        A short version of this story of grassroots economic development might go something like this: a group of concerned, courageous women decided to do something about the deteriorating economy in their rural southwestern Georgia county by starting a business to produce and export a distinctive local product for a particular market, thereby creating jobs and stimulating other local economic activity. So they did. And it worked. End of story.

        Yet the story of the Mayhaw Tree, Inc., of Colquitt (Miller County), Georgia, is more than a past–tense account of one successful small business in the Southern hinterlands—even though...

  7. PART II Visions for the Future

    • Development by Corporate Design

      • [Introduction]
        (pp. 173-174)

        The impact of the global economy reaches into every corner of our nation. Joblessness and the economic decline of communities bind together not only the Black Belt South and the coalfields of Appalachia, but also the farmers of the Midwest and the oil workers of Texas, the shoe workers of New England and the auto workers of Detroit. The atmosphere of scarcity—scarce jobs, scanty budgets, diminished public services—has encouraged state governments to devise extravagant and often ill–advised schemes to lure industry, and has forced some workers to accept lowered wages and more dangerous working conditions. Some call...

      • CHAPTER 14 Saturn: Tomorrow’s Jobs, Yesterday’s Myths
        (pp. 175-189)
        Carter Garber

        On July 30, 1985, General Motors(GM) announced its decision to locate a $3.5 billion automobile plant making the new Saturn model thirty miles south of Nashville in the town of Spring Hill, Tennessee.

        Governor Lamar Alexander trumpeted his state’s victory in full–page newspaper ads around the country. The prize was a considerable one, for the competition for the plant had been unprecedentedly fierce. Said to be the largest one–time investment in U.S. history, Saturn has taken on almost mythical dimensions and qualities in the public mind.

        But what is the real benefit of “winning Saturn,” and what is...

      • CHAPTER 15 Environmentalism, Economic Blackmail, and Civil Rights: Competing Agendas Within the Black Community
        (pp. 190-199)
        Robert D. Bullard

        There is abundant evidence that blacks and low–income people are subjected to a disproportionately large amount of pollution in their neighborhoods and in their workplaces. This is especially true in the southern United States. Black communities in the South have become the dumping grounds for all types of toxins. Why has this happened? What are blacks doing to combat this threat? What is government doing to ensure that everyone has equal access to an unpolluted environment?

        First of all, the black community in the South does not have extensive experience with environmental issues when compared with its white counterpart....

      • CHAPTER 16 New Work Force, New Organizing: The Experience of Women Office Workers and 9to5
        (pp. 200-210)
        Cindia Cameron

        Atlanta newspapers offer a compelling portrait of the booming Sun Belt economy. The business sections have weekly articles detailing continued job growth and an ever-declining unemployment rate. The local-news and feature sections often include photographs of the mushrooming skyline. The classified sections include many column inches of jobs with service and clerical titles. This portrait is repeated in Nashville, Tennessee, in Charlotte, North Carolina, in Greenville, South Carolina, and in any Southern city where the skyline is bulging with new office buildings.

        A quite different picture emerges when the stories of individual participants in this economic boom are put together....

      • CHAPTER 17 The Changing International Division of Labor: Links with Southern Africa
        (pp. 211-224)
        Ann Seidman

        In the 1960s and 1970s, widespread publicity proclaimed an industrial boom in the Sun Belt. By the 1980s, however, plant closings and rising unemployment spelled increasing poverty for growing numbers of people living in the southeastern United States.

        Why the change? This essay proposes an explanation centered on the way the post–World War II technological revolution enabled transnational corporations to shift their production in agriculture, mining, and manufacturing to take advantage of pools of even more impoverished Third World workers. In a no–win competition, they pitted wages, working conditions, and living standards in the southern United States against...

    • Visions for Change

      • [Introduction]
        (pp. 225-226)

        The articles in this final section take up the challenge of articulating more general strategies and visions of change that are long–range yet rooted in the present realities of the Southern political economy. None purports to encompass all the constituencies or concerns represented in this book; indeed, the diversity that flavors the rest of the volume persists here.

        The essays in this volume indicate that discontent is spread wide and deep, but there exists no common vision or strategy of change. What we find instead are pockets of resistance. Some emphasize self-help strategies for development, others advocate change in...

      • CHAPTER 18 Community-Based Economics Education: A Personal, Cultural, and Political Project
        (pp. 227-241)
        Wendy Luttrell

        There is a groundswell of community action across the country that may soon become a social movement. People are coming together within their communities in response to economic decline. In some instances, in direct response to plant closings, people have begun to explore collective, rather than individual, solutions to unemployment. In other instances, communities have come together to create economic alternatives such as developing new businesses, taking over existing industries, or shaping the decisions about the kinds of industry people want to bring to their region.¹ While people’s collective action asrespondersto the economy is not a new phenomenon...

      • CHAPTER 19 Interactions of Economics and Spirituality: Some Perspectives from Creole Culture
        (pp. 242-250)
        Deborah Clifton Hils

        We were born of Black Water at the beginning of time. This is the water of life that flows from the womb of the Mother Earth—whom we refer to as the Water Mother. The Water Mother gave birth to many nations in the Black Water. All the peoples, all the animals, all the plants, and all entities like fog are born of the Black Water. We come to be through it. We return to our ancestors through it. Wherever the Black Water flowed, it left living beings. So it left us in four places on the land: the marsh,...

      • CHAPTER 20 Toward a Human Service Economy
        (pp. 251-262)
        Richard A. Couto

        A human service economy centers on community organizations providing basic human services as a strategy of economic development. This chapter interprets past community organizing efforts, especially in health care, as forerunners of a human service economy. The central argument of this chapter is that we must part with economic development strategies that envision human services as a consequence of another form of economic activity, such as job creation, and instead articulate strategies in which the provision of human services, in and of itself, is an important form of economic activity for low-income communities.

        Historically, Appalachia and the rural South have...

      • CHAPTER 21 National Economic Renewal Programs and Their Implications for Appalachia and the South
        (pp. 263-278)
        Steve Fisher

        Most analysts of Appalachian and Southern rural economies have described regional economic problems as a consequence either of a conflict between tradition and agents of modernism (corporations or professionals) or of rural people’s inability to comprehend the rationality of modern society and hence to benefit from it. Such descriptions have helped to perpetuate the notion that Appalachians and Southerners are unlike everybody else, that they have unique kinds of economic problems that can somehow be solved from within, alone.

        The idea that Appalachia and the South are different from, at odds with, or exploited by the rest of the country...

      • CHAPTER 22 Toward a New Debate: Development, Democracy, and Dignity
        (pp. 279-292)
        John Gaventa, Barbara Ellen Smith and Alex Willingham

        The essays in this book have revealed the impact of economic restructuring on community life and community struggle in Appalachia and the South. These voices and stories have rarely been heard, especially outside their region. In the national media and literature, the images of economic decline one finds are of the closing steel mills of Pittsburgh, the laid–off auto worker in Detroit, the drought–stricken farmer in the Midwest, and the emergence of an “underclass” in the inner cities. Far less visible have been the stories of closings of mines in Appalachia and textile mills in the rural South,...

    (pp. 295-298)
    (pp. 299-303)
  10. Back Matter
    (pp. 304-304)