“A white man named Billy Harwood, who was imprisoned in 1994, started work at Smithfield [Packing Co. in Tar Heel] after his release in 2001.
“Aghast at the number of Mexicans, Harwood wondered aloud, ‘What the hell’s going on?’ By that year, fully one-third of the babies born at the health clinic in neighboring Robeson County were Latino.
“As Charlie LeDuff reported in the New York Times, Harwood ‘was Rip Van Winkle standing there.’ Locked up for seven years, he had missed the birth of a new kind of Southern racial order. Suddenly, he found himself thrust into the middle of it.
“Harwood still believed his skin color conferred on him a certain kind of advantage. While Harwood found the work terrible, he could take solace. ‘At least I ain’t a n—–. I’ll find other work soon. I’m a white man.’ ”
— From “There Goes My Everything: White Southerners in the Age of Civil Rights, 1945-1975” by Jason Sokol (2007)
“A 1976 advertisement in Forbes symbolized the state’s priorities. ‘North Carolina has a commitment to provide the most favorable climate to industry that is possible.’ By that year previously agricultural North Carolina had become the eighth most industrialized state…. Only 6.8 percent of its nonagricultural workers belonged to unions….
“A writer for The Progressive believed a great showdown was in the offing. ‘In North Carolina… the battle between labor and capital is still in its infancy. It is a replay of the struggles witnessed elsewhere from the 1880s through the 1930s.’ Those epic confrontations never came. … By 1988, less than 5 percent of workers… belonged to unions.”
— From “There Goes My Everything: White Southerners in the Age of Civil Rights, 1945-1975” by Jason Sokol (2006)
By 2009, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, North Carolina’s unionization rate had fallen even further, to 3.1 percent — still the lowest in the country.