Strike’s over Austin O.K., everybody, you can rush right out and buy Farah slacks now. The semi-settlement \(there’s still a long on Feb. 25. Willie Farah recognized Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America as the official bargaining agent for his employees and Amalgamated in turn called off the boycott of Farah slacks. After 22 months, one of the most difficult, occasionally vicious and potentially significant labor disputes in Texas history came to an end. Only four days before the settlement was announced, it looked as though it might go on for another 22 months or 22 years. At the Feb. 20 meeting of the Texas Council of Churches, in Fort Worth, Farah, President of Farah Manufacturing Co., sounded almost as hardline as ever as he tried to get theTCC to rescind its 1972 endorsement of the boycott. He did tell the TCC, “We believe in the right of workers to form unions and to join unions,” thus indicating that the education of Willie Farah had been proceding apace. Two years ago Farah was holding unions responsible for the decline and fall of the United States. But he told the TCC, “We believe that choice should be a free choice of the majority of workers. We do ‘not believe in compulsory unionism, and that is what this boycott is all about.” Farah used to say it was all about longhairs, filth, intimidation, falsehood and troublemakers. The TCC let Farah talk for his allotted 20 minutes and then voted 84-67 against letting him continue his presentation. The TCC neither re-passed nor rescinded its 1972 boycott endorsement but instead passed a resolution calling for “A [union] election conducted in an atmosphere free from intimidation and coercion … ” BUT IT SEEMS that by that time Farah had already been engaged in secret discussions with Amalgamated for about a month. The source of the pressure on Farah was evident. The company lost $8 -12 exa s million in 1972 and broke about even last year after a massive national television advertising campaign. But the company lost $2.5 million in the final quarter of last year and its stock was at one point down to $3.50 \(it jumped ftom $8 to $11.65 the Farah faced a March meeting with stockholders, who were reportedly fed to the teeth with declining profits and, according to one source, possibly prepared to sue F arah personally for mismanagement. On Jan. 28 Farah was hit by a National Labor Relations Board decision, written’ by Walter H. Maloney, Jr., which raked the company up one side and down the other. In that 41-page decision the NLRB accused Farah of breaking every’ rule including the Ten Commandments. It was after that decision that Farah suddenly shifted course and, after years of insisting that his plants would never, never, be unionized, called for plant-wide elections. That was a pretty good public relations ploy. Sen. John Tower and the Dallas Morning News, those heroes of the union movement, promptly endorsed the plan and when Amalgamated said, “Yeah, hey, great but . . . ” the DMN maundered editorially about how the union was afraid to let the workers vote. In fact, the NLRB would never have permitted such an election before at least this fall, precisely because of the conditions the union was “but-ing” about. Historically, the NLRB has not allowed elections in strikes where a high degree of emotion, intimidation and coercion has been used by either side. A long cooling-off period would have been called for. But Farah, facing that March meeting and being eaten up by the boycott, could not afford to play a waiting game. The only way around a long wait until the election was to let a majority of the workers still inside the Farah plants. sign NLRB-approved applications to join the union. As of the evening of ‘Feb. 27, 67 percent of those workers had signed such applications. \(Employees who have continued working for Farah have been known as “happies” ever since an unfortunate Farah public relations effort in 1972 called them the “8,000 happy Farah that the situation inside the plants had turned topsy-turvy. Supervisors were not actually pushing the cards or promoting the union, but workers could walk up to management personnel, ask for and receive a card. A week earlier, a worker would have been fired for being seen with such a card, signed or not, according to the happies. It was not that management had suddenly become pro-union it was a matter of saving the company. Father Jesse Munoz of Our Lady of the Light Church, who actively supported the strikers, told the Observer, “Since the settlement, we have heard from many, many happies who tell us they were all along in favor of the union, but that they were too scared that they would lose their jobs if they showed any sign.” EVEN WITH THE boycott lifted, the union will not get a contract soon. It is a matter of at least weeks, not days, before a contract will be near-ready and a whole lot will depend on what that contract looks like. An increase in salaries, a pension plan and job security will be the minimum demands in exchange for the sacrifices made by the strikers. George McAlmon, an El Paso attorney who is on the Committee for Fairness at Farah, said, “The reaction here has been very quiet and to some extent deliberately subdued. There’s quiet jubilation’ but also an effort not to rub it in. But there is no gloating because the war has been so very tough the strikers have lost their furniture, their cars no homes have been lost but their credit is gone, shot. And the strikers are trying not to be rough on those workers who stayed on the job.” Tony Sanchez, the El Paso manager for Amalgamated said, “It’s been like looking for a way out of Vietnam. Everybody’s suffered and they want it to end.” Carlos Valdez, a picket captain in El Paso, said of Farah, “I respect the man for what he did. He had the money. He gave us a good fight. He was just watching out for his pride.” The company plans to re-open the two San Antonio plants closed because of the effects of the boycott “as soon as possible” as soon as increased orders warrant it, perhaps in a matter of weeks. But the future of three other closed Farah plants in Victoria, Las Cruces, and Albuquerque is dim. There are no plans for re-opening them although the workers may be offered transfers to the plants in San Antonio and El Paso. Ironically, after years of being accused by the El Paso establishment of being “outside agitators,” Amalgamated has in the last few weeks apparently been faced with some real outside agitators. Strikers report the presence of about 20 chicanos, mostly from Chicago, who are variously described as “left-wing radicals” and “free-form Marxists.” They reportedly describe themselves as part of a chicano liberation movement. Munoz says, “I have met a few of them who seem to be sincere and I respect those. But I think they are ordinarily a bunch of tramps. It is not convenient for them that this strike ends because they have been making a living off it. They have been receiving alms from all over the country meant for our strikers but they have been living off this. They feed upon the simplicity of our people. I think that if we, if the Catholic Church had not come into this thing, people like these would have destroyed the whole thing.” According to some reports, the Chicago militants have been actively fanning some degree of discontent among the strikers as
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