Continued from page 1

But Mr. Cashion hopes the convention will highlight the labor movements struggles in North Carolina and the South.

North Carolina has its share of labor history - the true story that inspired the Sally Field film “Norma Rae” happened in a North Carolina textile mill. But for decades, unions here - as in most of the South - have been largely irrelevant.

“Youve got this combination of workers who are kind of ambivalent about unions in the first place, a history of violent repression and employers who are fiercely anti-union, and the result is an environment that is both culturally and legally hostile to the union movement,” said Harry Watson, director of the Center for the Study of the American South at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

It wasnt until the 1970s that unions began major organizing drives in the South, but by then many traditional industries, such as textiles, were in the early stages of a decline that saw them virtually wiped out by the dawn of the 21st century.

Labor leaders understand that Democrats arent going to change the site of the convention, and they hope the party will give them a chance to promote organized labor in a region that has long resisted it.

“Theres a lot of work around conventions, and who does that work is going to be important,” said Harris Raynor, the southern regional director for Workers United, an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union that represents about 5,000 North Carolina workers in jobs ranging from industrial laundries to food service. “Well see. Ive already been thinking about which of my members could benefit from this.”

The choice of Charlotte could end up being a boon for unions, he said, if it provides a stage for organized labor to argue that it makes businesses more successful.

“Given the debate going on in the country,” he said, “unions have to do a much better job of showing how they add value.”