Twenty-Five Years and Still Recovering: A Brief Reflection on NAFTA’s Impact on Southside, Virginia

Sandra Via


The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has had a detrimental effect on Southside, Virginia. Southside, Virginia, particularly Martinsville, VA and Henry County, VA served as a hub for the furniture and textile industries, such as Bassett Furniture and Bassett-Walker Apparel, in the United States.  After NAFTA’s implementation, these companies eliminated jobs and moved manufacturing overseas to China or across the border to Mexico where they could exploit low wage workers.  Neglecting the social responsibility that these corporations had to the workers that had built their companies and made their products world renown, manufacturers closed their doors leaving workers without any other job prospects.  Since NAFTA began its assault on Southside, Virginia, areas such as Martinsville, have suffered from mass unemployment and brain drain.  A shimmer of hope was found by some workers that took advantage of NAFTA-Trade Adjustment Assistance under the 1974 Trade Act.  These individuals attempted to go back to school and obtain new job skills but then found that jobs were still not available to them despite their newly acquired job skills and education.  Others had no other option but to leave their homes and uproot their families in search of new job opportunities.  Even though Martinsville and surrounding areas are beginning to “recover” from the losses inflicted by NAFTA, the area still continues to feel its effects and may feel those effects once again with the enactment of the recently signed United State-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). 


NAFTA; Neoliberal Globalization; Political Economy; Political Science

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ISSN: 1930-014X