Author: Richard Love

associate professor of history at Richard Bland College of the College of William and Mary
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Labor in Virginia during the Twentieth Century

The history of labor in Virginia during the twentieth century reflects both the ever-changing nature of the workplace and the endurance of Virginians’ long-held ideas about race, culture, and work. These powerful forces profoundly affected the choices and fortunes of workingmen and -women, black and white. They influenced hiring, wages, and seniority. They shaped the organization and evolution of companies and labor unions alike. And, like Virginia, they changed as the twenty-first century approached. One idea proved especially durable. It was the belief that the necessary maintenance of the social, political, and economic status quo depended on a combination of unorganized, low-wage labor and racial segregation, if not outright white supremacy. Employee and employer alike often embraced this antiunion, pro-apartheid approach to the age of industrialization and it shaped the development of the southern workforce. In Virginia, the vestiges of that ideology survived for most of the twentieth century.

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