WORK IN THE SOUTH: Dixie Cotton, American Steel and a Hurricane Named Katrina – The Reinvention of Bondage (Español

The Workplace Justice Project in cooperation with the Gillis Long Poverty Law Center and the Loyola Journal of Public Interest Law hosted the 2015 Conference “WORK IN THE SOUTH: Dixie Cotton, American Steel and a Hurricane Named Katrina – The Reinvention of Bondage,” March 6 -7 in New Orleans, Louisiana at the Loyola College of Law. 

WITS - mini flyer 02



The purpose of the conference was to examine the current economic, legal and political terrain for low wage workers in the South as well as for the advocates and the organizers who work with and for them, with a special focus on what makes this region of the country particularly challenging for the development and realization of workers’ rights.



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Pulitzer Prize Journalist, Douglas Blackmon, author of Slavery By Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to WWII, gave the keynote address setting the historical context for the conference as to why workers in the South are more vulnerable than workers in other regions. (Video will be made available soon–check back here.) Southern states have lower densities of unionized workers, provide lower (or no) minimum wage standards, and have resisted regulations on employers. It is not coincidental that the most vulnerable workers in the southern states are predominantly African-American or from immigrant communities, nor that, among white low-wage workers, there is less affinity and affiliation by class than by race, a division that is exploited by the legislature, employers and the owning class.

Watch a video of the full address HERE

The first day of the conference consisted of the keynote address, with a question and answer period, and three panels which addressed whether and how the political landscape for low wage workers has changed between the post-reconstruction era and the present day. Speakers mapped the current landscape, identified who the workers are and what factors make them vulnerable, and discussed solutions to the most significant challenges that keep workers in low-wage, exploitative conditions. To read more about the panelists, click here

Members of STAND with Dignity and the Congress of Day Laborers perform a play based on their experiences of cross-racial organizing in New Orleans

Members of STAND with Dignity and the Congress of Day Laborers perform a play based on their experiences of cross-racial organizing in New Orleans (photo cred: John Barry)

The second day of the conference consisted of workshops that included strategies for making systemic changes in the region, including litigation, the necessity of workers’ centers, and the need for policy changes. To see the final conference schedule, click here: Conference Schedule





For more information on the Gillis Long Poverty Law Center or the Stuart H. Smith Law Clinic and Center for Social Justice, please visit

For more information on Douglas Blackmon and Slavery By Another Name, please visit

For more information on the speakers, their organizations, and how to get involved in their work, please visit Conference Speakers.
Tree of Knowledge and Action generated by conference participants (photo cred: John Barry)

Tree of Knowledge and Action generated by conference participants (photo cred: John Barry)


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