THE GREAT DEPRESSION AND THE UNION
Cotton-mill paternalism ultimately rested on a false promise. To those families who remained loyal, the corporation offered an implicit guarantee that steady employment would be available and that mill-village regulations would be enforced with some flexibility. Common southern nativity and deeply held notions of white supremacy lent credence to the idea of shared interests between millhands and managers. But corporate profits, not shared interests, were the bedrock of industrial capitalism, and the southern textile industry could hardly be expected to remain prosperous indefinitely. The Great Depression of the 1930s revealed clearly what southern managers and millhands had failed to recognize or refused to acknowledge -- that corporate paternalism could not withstand a sustained economic downturn.
In any case, paternalism had never completely obscured the inequities in the mill-village system. Management always held ultimate power in mill-village society, and dissatisfied employees had few options