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May 22, 2011 - Ray Hall (Archive)
By 1860 slavery in the southern states had matured and would only be undone by a Civil War. In 1860 southern slave states had a population of slightly more than 8 million whites and fewer than 385 thousand owned slaves, less than one half of one percent of the white population. Slavery only benefited a small, elite group of white plantation owners and did not spread its wealth among the masses.

That well fed, upper crust society regarded a large segment of the remaining white population as little more than an ignorant underclass and treated them only marginally better than slaves. Indeed, day to day living conditions for some slaves was better than that of whites struggling to get by. How was it then that southern plantation owners could so easily convince whites they valued so little to fight and die in a civil war to sustain an opulent life style generated by slavery? The answer was much easier than one would suppose. The comfortable elite cleverly developed one of many “southern strategies” that has been refined for the times and is as effective today as it was in the past.

Then, the underlying message to poor southern whites was if slavery is ended then slaves will be your equals, but that message was cushioned in blame. Blame the Abolitionists for wanting to take away your way of life—the Abolitionists and Big Government in Washington are determined to take away your rights and make you second-class citizens. Today the message is played on a different piano but it still carries the same tune—blame. Blame the unions and the Federal Government for trying to take something from you—states rights—your rights, your way of life. Unions and the Federal Government are bad—they want to force you to join an awful union.

It should not come as a surprise that more than half of the 22 states that have enacted so called ‘right to work’ laws are southern states once aligned with slavery as a legitimate economic model. Although those states are not advocating slavery—a totally evil blot on the history of the south—the intent of right to work laws is to suppress wages, restrict worker rights and scrap product and workplace safety.

That was demonstrated recently when Bob McDonald who is Governor of Virginia and Mark Brzezinski who is the son of former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski appeared on the morning talk show Morning Joe. Mika Brzezinski is Mark Brzezinski’s sister and co-host of that show. The men had a friendly forum to discuss their recent trip to China where they set up a trade office to explain why it would be advantageous for Chinese manufacturers to relocate a plant to the Commonwealth.

In their discussions with the Chinese they talked about the state’s excellent university system while emphasizing Virginia’s close proximity to our nation’s capitol and that Virginia was a right to work state. Virginia is not alone; there are about 25 other states that have established trade missions in China. But what was the real message they were sending to China?

China is a U.S. Chamber of Commerce dream. Although they have a Communist Government (whatever happened to better “Dead than Red”) they are a country with few restrictions. They have little regard for displacing people when a developer wants to build a thirty-story skyscraper in thirteen weeks. Worker safety is not a big issue with the Chinese and neither are worker rights or wages and benefits. China has some of the lowest wages in the world, some of the harshest working conditions and some of the largest mine disasters on the globe.

What was the message the Commonwealth was sending to China? Relocate to Virginia and keep your cheap wages? Operate your plant free from union interference; you need not be concerned with worker’s rights? And if the government should get in the way with messy work standards—Virginia is near the real seat of power in America—Washington D.C.’s infamous K Street—home to national and international lobbying law firms. A few bucks there will grease the skids.


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