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their 20,000 clothing workers being a plum for the unions takes on sinister connotations in the minds of some El Pasoans. One is solemnly assured, time after time, by Downtown types, that what the union is really after is getting these 20,000 workers on its check-off list. That workers benefit from unionization is not an article of faith in El Paso. George Janzen, who is a particularly pleasant person –and brighter than your .average Chamber of Commerce president, confided with some horror that he had heard the strikers were actually being paid by the union paid not to work not to mention the food stamps they get courtesy of us taxpayers. Janzen had obviously never even heard of the concept of strike benefits, whiCh in this case come to a fat 30 bucks a week. Even Bill Latham, editor of the El Paso Times, submitted it as his opinion that the union had simply looked at Farah’s payroll and figured what the check-off would bring. Latham said for the record, “I am for Farah: he is a good citizen and he has done a lot for El Paso.” Latham is perfectly up-front about his stance and has taken to the editorial page to make his feelings clear. He blasted Sen. Edward Kennedy after Kennedy came out in favor of the strikers “.. . either he has a good speech writer, is running for president or is just plain uninformed. In the case of his address … he made a statement which plainly put him in the latter category.” And that’s where Latham puts George McGovern, Sissy Farenthold, Bishops Metzger and Flores, Sen. Gaylord Nelson and anyone else who sides with the strikers against Farah. WHILE FARAH himself believes the strike is simple, a mere matter of right versus wrong, even his own style is a complex mixture of cultural strains. Along with being the son of immigrants-whomade-good, Farah is a border biggie and has adopted, lock, stock and patronization, the style of the patrons. Patrons are cultural dinosaurs these days. The style is dying even in South Texas, just as the old political machines are dying. But it is difficult to explain to a benevolent patron, or even one who has convinced himself that he is benevolent, just why that style will not wash anymore. Willie Farah speaks Spanish. At Christmastime he goes around his factories and persohally shakes hands with each and every worker, wishing them Feliz Navidad. His workers get free coffee and rolls at breaktime. The company owns buses and offers workers free transportation. Hot lunches are available in company cafeterias for 70 cents. There’s a free clinic in the plant. Free eye examinations and prescriptions are available. They get free prescription drugs, 4 The Texas Observer free life insurance, holiday pay, sick leave, bonuses and big discounts on Farah slacks. The company boasts medical benefits, pension and profit-sharing plans. And, allegedly, higher wages than in the other clothing plants in El Paso. Wages higher than the federal minimum. The company’s version 1969 The Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America initiated efforts to become the bargaining agent for the less than 9,500 production employees of Farah Manufacturing Company, Inc. 1970 Failing to win enough support through conventional mass .organizational methods, the ACWA turned to the use of fragmentation. That is, the singling out of fragmented segments of working departments or areas where the union felt it could be successful. The first fragmented segment was in the shipping department of one Farah plant. The NLRB dismissed this segment as an inappropriate bargaining unit. The next fragmented segment singled out by the union was in the cutting area of the plant. This election was held in October among less than 200 employees 2% of the total Farah work force. Objections to the conduct of the election were filed by Farah before the NLRB in Washington. 1971 The union continued to file numerous unfair labor practice charges with the NLRB. Farah was exonerated of any wrongdoing in most of these case. 1972 In May the union started calling upon the entire Farah work force to walk off the job. Fewer than 2,000 less than 20% of the total work force have heeded the call. Failing for the second time to achieve majority support among the employees at whom the ACWA is directing its organizational efforts, the union with the aid of the AFL-CIO launched a nationwide boycott of Farah products. The object of the boycott, which has since its initiation received support from such quarters as the Central Committee of the Communist Party, is the use of economic pressure to force recognition by Farah employees of the ACWA as their bargaining agent. In September the NLRB certified the result of the 1970 cutting area election among 182 employees \(the actual count of company is contesting the validity of that election, seeking a court reversal of the administrative decision. Farah does not feel it would be fair to permit a minority of less than 2% to decide the fate of 9,500 employees. Oridnarily a clothing strike brings on visions of the old sweat shops. But the Farah plants are no such animal. Clean, white and bright, with gleaming floors, spotless walls, shining toilets, everything private-hospital clean. “A roach,” admitted Leonard Levy, vice-president of Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America, “would need a special invitation to get in.” There is even Muzak, Mexican Muzak piped in over the p.a. system. George McAlmon, an attorney, former chairman of the county Democratic Party and chairman of the Committee for Fairness at Farah, said, “I believe this strike is the most important thing that has happened in El Paso in the last 25 years. It’s not just about Farah and the wages and benefits there.” McAlmon believes a Farah victory will lead to general unionization in the clothing plants and eventually to unionization for all the miserably underpaid, unorganized chicano workers retail clerks, car wash boys, laundry workers, dishwashers, assembly line workers, you name it. McAlmon points out that El Paso is the last city in the country where a middle-class family can easily afford a full-time maid. Maids get from $15 to $25 a month. McAlmon and other supporters of the Farah strike believe a union victory in El Paso will eventually affect the wage rates along the entire border. But, more importantly, he sees the question, as do many of the strikers, in terms of dignidad and patrons: As a question of chicanos finally saying, “Bastante.” Enough, enough, of the bosses and enough of having no control over their lives. Such rhetoric seems, at times, curiously unreal to an outsider on several counts. Even if one is sympathetic to the idea of worker control and “having a say in your own life,” the reaction is, aw, come on, people don’t strike for that kind of stuff. Besides, if you’ve ever seen people who couldn’t possibly be robbed of their dignidad, it’s Farah strikers. The Queen of England could take lessons in graciousness and dignity from these people. In talking to one after another after another, one finds that they have indeed struck for the old bread-and-butter reasons. MANUELA REYES, who is 22 years old and has worked at Farah since she was 16, started at $1.60 an hour and was making $1.90 when she walked out. She couldn’t get a raise. Armando Telles, 32, walked out after 11 years at the Farah Co. because he has eight children and didn’t like not knowing if he’d be fired. “For me it was job security,” he said. “I saw a lot of people fired for no reason. Every day you have to think, maybe this day I’ll be fired because something else happens. I even know a happy who was fired the other day. I don’t know why.” But although money is cited again and again as the motivating factor in the walkout, one finds the strikers returning most often to questions of dignidad. Said Reyes, “At the break is the only