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Congratulations to The Texas Observer KING PRINTING COMPANY/ 613 South Akard Dallas Prospect 5275 lANIMPOIMPOI `I’LL NEVER SIGN’ Miller Opposes Union Until Retailers Unite Was Local in Origin Worker Roberts States Special to The Texas Observer PORT ARTHUR, Tex., Dec. 13.Les Roberts works “on the still” at the Texas Company Refinery in Port Arthur. He is president of the Sabine Area Council of CIO Unions and a member of the executive board of the State CIO Council. He is also a member of the Port Arthur Boy Scout Council and was for many years a member of the Board of Stewards of St. Mark’s Methodist Church in Port Arthur. For more than a year now, Roberts has been a key figure on the pressure that a striker must bear labor side of the embittered laborfrom his own experience. In 1945 management fight over unions in the Texas Co. employees struck and the retail stores of Port Arthur. He the Navy took over the company. is one of the defendants in a mil-‘ Under the settlement negotiated, lion-dollar damage suit by twelve “all” striking employees were to of the struck stores seeking triple return to work. Roberts says that damages for losses resulting from as a union leader he was informed what they allege has been an illegal by letter that he was dismissed. strike. But for the intervention of the Page 5 December 20, 1954 THE TEXAS OBSERVER Outside Funds Help Merchants confer with the merchant being interviewed. Union leaders state that it is clear beyond any doubt that funds are coming in from the outside. “The Texas Retaurant Association has been sending the money. I’m sure it is,” said Cowart, District Four representative of the International Oil Workers Union who has been detailed to handle the strike by CIO. “Money has been coming from throughout the State. But,” he adds, “the chain stores are bearing the cost of the strike for their local stores.” “It is evident,” L. L. Roberts, secretary of Local 23 of the Oil Workers, said, “that through the Texas Restaurant Association there have been appeals for funds for the struck stores.” Special to The Texas Observer PORT ARTHUR, Dec. 13″I got a sign, ‘Remember the Alamo,’ so that’s the way I feel about it.” So says Fred Miller, white-haired and jocular proprietor of two struck hardware stores in Port Arthur. “I don’t think the retail trades in Texas ought to be organized as long as the retail merchants are not organized,” Miller told The Texas Observer. He said that ‘ his appliances carry only a 10 percent markup, and until competition i s lessened, he doesn’t see any room for organized labor. “Now you take that gun man across the street,” he said. “He can’t afford to pay a salesman $40 or $50 a week, but there is a lady there who is perfectly happy to work for $20 a week, and he can afford that. If it were any other way he wouldn’t Roberts, his wife Gracie, and five children have lived for a long time in a small but friendly home in a suburb of Port Arthur. Right now, one of the Roberts boys is in the Air Force in Korea and another in the army at Fort Bliss. Two of the children are still in secondary school, and the older daughter is a student at Lamar College. As an oil worker, Roberts is of course a member of Local 23 of the Oilworkers International Union in Port Arthur. His daily job is to man a “still,” which takes in the raw crude and produces \(after the application of steam heat and pressene “cuts,” gas oils, and residual fuel oils. The strike was entirely of local origin, Roberts explains. For six or seven years officers of Local 23 of the Oil Workers union in Port Arthur were asked by retail workers in Port Arthur to provide some organization for them. Several attempts were made during the war by the AFL but the successes were short-lived. “Requests finally became so heavy and numerous that I talked to the CIO regional director about the need for organization,” Roberts says. But nothing happened. Then Harry Bush of DPOWA, an independent union later attacked by Attorney General John Ben Shepperd, contacted Port Arthur labor leaders. Organization began. “We set up weekly meetings so that retail employees could come in and discuss it,” Roberts recalls. “The growth of the union, with no publicity, was astounding. Within four weeks the retail workers were practically moving the oil workers out of union hall. All the retail stores were involved.” “Of course,” Roberts adds, “all the DPO history was unknown to us at that time.” Roberts knows a little about the Lanz Jewelers is one of the nineteen struck retail stores in Port Arthur. It is the only jewelry store involved in the strike. The name cf Anne Lanz, one of the proprietors, is signed to a mimeographed letter on “Lanz Credit Jewelers” stationery sent to a Dallas jewelry store. Also enclosed in the envelope were a Texas Manufacturing Association “Confidential Letter” on the strike and a photograph of “Mrs. Anne Lanz” and another one of the Lanz store being picketed. The Texas Observer believes the letter is a significant illustration of the issues in the strike and calls attention to portions of it here, as Mrs. Lanz was informed would be done in a letter dated Dec. 2. Avril Bowling, Jewelers 901 W. Jefferson Avenue Dallas, Texas Dear Sir: The long and bitter history of this “strike” … is recounted in the enclosed copy of MIA’s “Confidential Letter” dated February 22, 1954 … Perhaps it has seemed to you that this labor dispute is remote from your community and does not menace your business. We, who are on the firing line, believe we are holding that line for all Texas merchants. We believe that if this ef -4 to wrest from us the initiative ‘ontrolling our businesses is suc , all Texas merchants will &tably suffer from the same nent Navy \(which then ordered the cornwould have lost his job. During the investigation conducted by The Texas Observer of the Port Arthur strike, no one was heard to say an ill word against Roberts. But one of the pamphlets put out about the strike during the political campaign pictured Roberts, hands in pockets and scowling, standing on a curb with some other men. The caption said: “If you want to stand on the curb with these professional bullies then vote with them for their captive candidate. “Please help save our community and yours by voting for Allan Shivers.” It must be admitted that when Les Roberts scowls, he scowls, but it’s doubtful that the caption writer ever spent an evening with Les Roberts and his family in the small and friendly house where they have lived so long .. –Staff Photo ‘LES ROBERTS The restaurant association is assisting the individual restaurant owners financially to keep them going so their doors can remain open. I understand the same thing is true with the hardware group and the struck hardware store. This fight is costing me $50.00 a day and I have received absolutely no help from any jeweler or from the association. I am not asking for your help to place me in a profit status, but merely to help defray the cost to continue this fight, which may have to be waged for many, many more months. If you will help, please send to the Port Arthur Lanz Fund \(tax feel you can afford; $25, $50, $100, $500, or $1,000. Every check is needed to help this fight for the retail jewelers. Checks made to the Port Arthur Lanz Fund can be mailed in the enclosed envelope to the Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce, P.O. Box 650. Your check will be acknowledged and any amount not spent in this fund will be returned to contributors on a pro-rata basis. What amount will you give to help continue this fight for the retail jewelers? Don’t let me down when I need your help so urgently! Every dollar you send will be spent to protect or insure yourself! Gratefully, Anne Lanz.” The proprietor an an unstruck retail store said that “a few fellows” had been by his store soliciting funds fr struck merchants but that they “haven’t got much locally.” He chose to remain anonymous, explaining: “If they even knew I was in here talking to you about it, they’d cut off my credit, I couldn’t get supplies, my business would drop –, they’d make you want to leave town, you know. They even get at your kids at school.” He said there are “about a dozen big operators” in Port Arthur “who control the banks, society, the country club, the papers, everything.” Confirming the existence of outside political as well as economic pressures, this same merchant said: “There’s lots of pressure from Austin. You can’t swear to it but you can feel it. Nobody can do anything without approval. Every idea about settlement of the strike is quashed, but no one knows from where.” A. J. Rosenthal of the Carrier Cafe, when asked about the existence of the merchants’ committee, stated for publication: “I used to be on it, but now I think my Dad’s the one you want to talk to.” Asked how much money has come in from the outside, A. J. Rosenthal said: “Oh, I couldn’t say, but I tell you, it’s come from all over Texas and all over the United States all over.” Specifically, he stated some had come from Louisiana, some through the Texas Restaurant Association, and some through the National Restaurant Association. His father stated he had not been on the committee. On Austin, W. Price, Jr., executive vice-president of the Texas Restaurant Association, was unavailable for comment despite repeated attempts to reach him. However, in a story by Max Skelton of the Associated Press Sept. 25, an official of the association in Austin whom Skelton did not name was quoted as saying: “There have been contributions not only from individual restaurants but from other people all over the State. I guess three dozen other industries have contributed funds to the destitute who are behind the picket lines in the City of Port Arthur.” Before the strike was formally called, Leo Hebert, then president of the Sabine Area Association of Restaurant Owners and Cafe Operators, said in a Beaumont court that the association had raised $3,000 or $4,000 to aid struck cafes by paying their rent. \(A number of stores were struck before the walk-out now out of touch with the situation. Another cafe proprietor in Port Arthur, Mrs. Edith Vamvakias of the Texas Cafe, who said she has lost four-fifths of her business because of the pickets, told! The Texas Observer: “There is a committee, there are several of them on it.” The funds the committee provided made the difference betw\( n. be in business.” Miller moved to Port Arthur from Indiana in 1902, when he was six years old. He quit school when he was 15 and started in business “with $150 and four years’ experience” when he was 19. By dint of hard work, he built his two stores into going concerns. The issue in the strike, Miller says, is the recognition of the union. Standing behind his counter in the middle of the clutter characteristic of hardware stores, Miller said: “If those people had got their union here I’d have made it so uncomfortable for them they’da had to leave.” The pickets have hurt him. He says that his sales for the first five months of 1954 are down. 67 per _ant. He has cut his payroll down from $55,000 to $15,000 in a year. He says he has received outside help of “$600 in 13 months.” “This is a union town,” he said, “and the pickets have hurt. I can’t send goods to other merchants; they won’t take them. Only one freight line will deliver freight here. You’ve got to go out and get your own coke. I’ve had to liquidate one warehouse. But none of the outside salesmen have stopped calling, and no one has turned me down on credit.” He says he is now breaking even again. For about a week in front of his stores he played over and over, very loudly, a recording of human laughter. “I finally had to stop it when the stores around complained,” he said. But even now the record plays over and over again, but softly, on the sidewalk in front of his store where the pickets walk to and fro. And he has two signs in front of his store. One of them reads: surviving as a business and closing the doors, she said. Richard Gor, one _of the proprietors of the struck Silver Star Cafe, commented: “We’re all getting help from the outside. It has helped a lot … We get don’t know where it’s coming from.” \(Next week, the series concludes with a discussion of the strike’s effects on Port Arthur and the prosStaff Photo FRED MILLER “Our Employees . ARE NOT on strike.” Miller here is making the point that the persons picketing his store are not now his employees, for some of them did not formerly work for himand those of them who did are fired now, anyway. The other reads: “Remember the Alamo. Help us win dep e n d en ce.” Miller belongs to the group of merchants among those struck who say they have no intention of ever giving in on the recognition issue. He told the Dallas News: “I’d feel like a traitor if I signe,’ up. I’d never sign up. I’d liquidate before I’d sign.”