Page 9


only a few walked out, but then they played the swallow song and many were hurt by the cynicism.” \(Some genius at the Farah plant put La Golondrina, the traditional Mexican song of farewell, on the public address system as the workers started to walk out on May 9. Some of the workers thought it was a funny move, others seem to have been seriously offended: the atmosphere was tense, to put FATHER MUNOZ continued. “Our people work, always work, but everything they get goes to the creditors, for the house, the car, the furniture. There is never any cash in their pockets to buy something they can call their own. I think Mr. Janzen was very blind when he said this about Farah being good for the economy of El Paso. He was talking there of the economy of the well-to-do. They benefit by this system where our people wind up paying $500 for a $300 piece of furniture. I think the economy of this town has been rotten for my people for a long time. I think the Farah people are not being honest. I asked for an open discussion with the happies, but they said this was unthinkable. The company keeps instilling in the happies the idea that if the union comes in, all now inside will be kicked out and have no job. They feel like work is their only destiny. Some don’t know what a union is all about. Many of our people do not read even the newspaper and they come to me afraid and ask, Is this true, what Farah has told them about no jobs if the union comes? I d6n’t care about Mr. Farah’s shining walls or even if his toilet bowls there have 14 carat tops: it is a living wage my people need. But the people are so afraid. People can get used to anything if they have no choice. They are afraid Farah will sell out and leave them. Where will we go? What are we gonna do? As long as they are afraid, they will not stand up. And Farah pretends he is like the Great White Father: you owe everything to me, he says, look how much I have done for you. But it is not so. “The church -has had much criticism for getting involved in this, even me personally, I have been attacked and the Bishop. But we’re in it to stay, though it may shock some. It is, as the Bishop said, for social justice.” M.I. 1.Some may wonder why Farah has plants in Belgium and Hong Kong if he is such a chauvinist. The company spokesman gravely explains that this is “international nationalism,” and says that the foreign plants are operated like the American plants: in the Belgian plants, only Belgains are hired and only Belgian materials are used. The profits, however, return unto Farah. 2.From an Associated Press story on Farah by Mike Cochran, published in, among other publications, the Dallas Morning News, Nov. 26, 1972. 3.New York Times, Sept. 11, 1972. 4.Los Angeles Times, Nov. 23, 1972. 5.Statistics from Bishop S. M. Metzger’s letter in response to another bishop, published in the National Catholic Reporter, Nov. 17, 1972. The union’s story Tony Sanchez, a union organizer, has been with Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America for 18 years. He was transferred to El Paso from Los Angeles in April, 1969. “It started with a leaflet,” he said. “We were trying to inform the workers of their right to be organized into a union of their choosing. We asked permission to distribute the leaflet in the parking lots at the Farah plants and the company refused. We filed a charge [with the National Labor Relations Board] but the Board dismissed it for lack of merit and said to find another way to communicate with the workers. Late in ’69, the call came from them. There were a substantial number in the shipping department and Adam Gonzalez called and they requested that we come in to help organize. So we held our first meeting, at the Rodeway Inn, with about 60 workers attending and every one of them signed union cards and took a stack more to sign up the others. Shortly after that, Adam Gonzalez was discharged. He went through the courts. The NLRB of the 28th district ruled that he be reinstated. But the company appealed to the board in Washington. They reaffirmed the order and the company went to the Fifth District Court of Appeals and from there came an order to reinstate Gonzalez with back pay, which was about $2,200 by then. The organization did increase and extended to the cutting department. At one time, we had a hearing for 32 workers dismissed for union activity: 19 of them were reinstated by the 28th District NLRB and the company is now appealing that to Washington. If they lose there, I expect 6 The Texas Observer them to go to the Fifth District Appeals Court and if the Supreme Court will hear the case, they would take it there. They have been so about everything. Every little thing. “When we reached a majority of the employees in the shipping department, we requested a hearing. The Board ruled that the unit was not appropriate for separate bargaining. Next we filed a petition for an election in the cutting department. The Board granted this petition and on August 14, 1970 the election was held. We won by 109 to 73. The company objected and it went to a hearing. The 28th district Board overruled the objections and the company appealed to the Washington Board. Washington certified us. We requested negotiations. The government has said we are the legal bargaining agents for this unit. But the company refused to negotiate. Then there came more discharges for union activity before the Board. It was an uneasy Situation. People were harassed and intimidated. The workers were told that if they insisted on having a union, the company would close all the plants and put them out of a job. This they were told. We did not call the people after this, they came to us. Usually the union makes the approaches, but not this time. We did not call a strike. Because of the company we were all the time going from one court to another to another. 0 ON MAY 9TH of this year, I receive a call in the morning and it said that some people were walking out. I went over to the parking lot and saw this was true. So I called New York [Amalgamated Headquarters] and they said, no, this is too premature, we’re not prepared, tell them to go back to work. So I did, and Farah can accuse me of invading his private property because it’s true: I went on to that land and told the workers to go back. But they said it was too late, they would not. So I called New York again and said there was no way to stop it and they said, O.K., we have to support the strike. [Both sides have called the walkout a strike over since. The only “strike” demand, however, is for union recognition.] “May 9th was on a Tuesday. On that Friday I was presented with an injunction against mass picketing. It said that the people picketing had to be 50 feet apart from each other. Our headquarters was by then closed for the weekend, everyone gone. So on Monday morning when they all ,came back I had a staff meeting to explain what is an injunction. Many people did not know what an injunction is. We went to the plant where the pickets were coming for duty to try to explain this. They were coming in groups of 15 and 20, walking up and us trying to explain an injunction. Meanwhile, the company was taking pictures of us trying to explain this to the pickets. Ppople were crowded around to hear [one is seized by visions of Sanchez shouting to a first picket 50 feet away, “An injunction is a court order pass it on.”] Then we were surprised two days later to get citations for violating the injunction. People came in the morning and say my husband was picked up last night. Very upset. So I called the police and I found there were 250 citations issued by Justice of the Peace Bob Lewis for violation of the injunction. The staff was included in this. So I said to the sheriff, “S