Tuesday, September 2, 2014

In the News: Southern White Men and Unions, Legacy of Slavery and Regional Economic Inequality, and Knee Defenders

Some recent news items that have caught my attention. I find some common threads in them. Do you?

First, Edward McClelland comments on the well-known antipathy of Southern white men to organized labor and unions:

Earlier this year, the UAW tried to organize a Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Despite the tacit support of the company, which needed an independent union to form a European-style works council, the UAW lost the election, 712-626. Before the vote, the anti-union faction, which called itself Southern Momentum, invoked cultural, regional, racial and political resentments to persuade the conservative white men working in the plant that a union was a threat not only to their livelihoods, but to their way of life . . . A pamphlet distributed to workers compared the Northern union's campaign to a campaign by the Union Army in the Civil War: "One hundred and fifty years ago … the people of Tennessee routed such a force in the Battle of Chickamauga."

Then, Stephen Mihm explains why* that antipathy is so pronounced among Southern white men: it's rooted in the history of slavery and its aftermath in the American South, when there was strong resistance on the part of many whites to collaborative, socially funded ventures of any sort, because these were seen as benefiting freed slaves at the expense of whites:

In lands turned over to slavery, [Stanford historial Gavin] Wright had observed, there was little incentive to provide so-called public goods—schools, libraries, and other institutions—that attract migrants. In the North, by contrast, the need to attract and retain free labor in areas resulted in a far greater investment in public goods—institutions that would, over the succeeding decades, offer far greater opportunities for social mobility and lay the foundation for sustained, superior economic growth.

And then there's this: at one online site after another in recent days, those defending the use of knee defenders to prevent other passengers on airlines from reclining their seats turn out almost always to be men. They invariably turn out to be tall men who fly frequently and who are connected to the world of high finance and/or sports, who assert their right to curb the rights of other fellow passengers, just because . . . . 

Because they're affluent tall white men connected to the world of high finance and/or sports, who fly frequently . . . . 

What's that all about, I wonder?

P.S. And then, of course, in the latest incident of a dispute that diverted a plane flying from New York to Florida, it was two women who had a spat over a reclining seat, though news reports don't suggest that the woman objecting to a seat being reclined in front her used the "knee defender" device.

*H/t to Andrew Sullivan's Dish staff at his Dish site.

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