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Operation Dixie was the name given to the CIO's program to bring unionism to the South. Under the direction of Van A. Bittner, the vice-president of the United Steelworkers of America, the CIO's Southern Organizing Committee was established in May 1946. Supported by contributions from some forty affiliated unions, the Committee established programs in twelve states throughout the South. Operation Dixie attempted to organize workers in diverse industries, concentrating on the textile, wood products, chemical, oil and iron and steel industries and on the largest and most resistant employers in a given area.

While its primary purpose was "organizing the unorganized," the Southern Organizing Committee also cooperated with the CIO's Political Action Committees and State CIOs or Industrial Union Councils which sought to attain the parent organizations goals through state and national legislation and electoral reform.

Although by February 1947 324 new locals had been established, the Committee's work was plagued with a variety of problems. Among these were charges of communist sympathies; opposition by the Ku Klux Klan and others to the CIO policy of establishing racially integrated locals; lack of financial support; and employer opposition which included violence, intimidation and collusion with public authorities. In 1953, the Southern drive was reorganized and most of the work of developing and servicing locals was turned over to the affiliated unions at that time.