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Countdown at the ConCon Austin Four days before the final deadline, many observers felt the constitutional convention belonged in a zoo. Actually, it belonged in Roget’s Thesaurus, under 530.3: confusion, fluster, muddle, predicament, disconcertion, bewilderment, embarrassment, disturbance, perturbation, pother, stew, haze, fog, maze. Or possibly under 729.4: plight, pickle, hobble, strait, pass, spot, squeeze, scrape, jam, slough, quagmire, imbroglio. In short, the convention had worked itself into such a pluperfect mess that it seemed increasingly probable that seven months of work and at least $5 million of the taxpayers’ money would produce not one damn thing. The chief problem was a matter of mathematics: Pro-right-to-work forces + cockroaches = defeat of new constitution. Anti-right-to-work forces + cockroaches = defeat of new constitution. Well, the Lege being the Lege, it managed to get itself into this impasse over an utterly meaningless issue. The anti-right-to-workers knew that keeping right-to-work out of the new constitution would make no difference whatever. The pro-right-to-workers knew that putting right-to-work in the new constitution would make no difference whatever. But did it make any difference to anyone that it didn’t make any difference? Of course not. Right-to-work \(and may the p.r. man who invented that phrase receive all the Oscars, Emmies and Pulitzers his profession because labor relations are by law the sole province of federal authority. The only loophole in that structure of law is one that appears in the 1948 Taft-Hartley Act. The loophole is section 14-B, a clause which permits states, if they wish, to outlaw closed union shops, i.e., pass right-to-work laws. THE STATE of Texas, naturally, took advantage of the loophole and has, for more than 20 years, operated cheerfully with closed shops, union shops and agency shops outlawed. Putting in or leaving out a right-to-work clause from the new constitution will not affect the labor situation in Texas: the statutory law will remain. Should the labor movement manage to repeal 14-B, which it is far more likely to do at the national level, where it has enviable clout, than it is to repeal the right-to-work law in Texas, where it has almost none, the Texas question will again become moot. If right-to-work remains simply as a statutory provision here, and 14-B is repealed, the Texas right-to-work-law will be null and void. If the new constitution carried a right-to-work provision, and 14-B is repealed, the constitutional provision will be null and void. So why should Texas labor have staked its all on defeating a meaningless provision? Well, setting aside the question of massive stupidity, there is an emotional, non-rational reaction amongst union folk to the idea of right-to-work. Putting right-to-work in the new constitution may or may not slow up labor’s organizing efforts in Texas, it may or may not have a seriously deleterious effect on the morale of the rank and file, but it will certainly mean that the Texas AFL-CIO will have to devote its energies and its political monies this fall to defeating the new constitution. Face it, they can’t not fight it. It is further necessary to understand that at the point at which organized labor whether foolishly or not became committed to staving off right-to-work as THE labor issue of the convention, something more than that issue was put at stake. If labor wins, it wins nothing substantive, but if labor loses, it loses big in political terms. What labor’s conservative and reactionary opposition will have proved is simply that labor cannot deliver, that it hasn’t got clout, that members need not walk in fear of doing wrong by organized labor because there isn’t anything labor can do about it. Now this also leads to some internal political questions about labor. According to one school of thought, Harry Hubbard, president of the AFL-CIO, has his job riding on the outcome of the convention in re right-to-work. Right-to-work goes in, Hubbard goes out. Labor folks are alleged to be that stirred up about the matter. According to this scenario, Sherman Fricks, secretary-treasurer of the AFL and the man next in line for Hubbard’s job, would not be heartbroken if right-to-work just somehow got slipped into the constitution. As evidence of this theory, it is pointed out that Fricks is a Building and Trades man and B & T have never been known to get all that excited about r/w. On the other hand, some laborites maintain that Hubbard’s support in the Texas AFL has a broad base and goes to personal qualities in the man that transcend even such gut labor issues as r/w. If that’s what Fricks is thinking, he’s got another think coming, they say. IF THE whole r/w issue doesn’t strike you as sufficiently zany, just take a look at what labor’s opposition is excited about. The one issue on the conservative side consistently cited as being just as important as r/w is equal educational opportunity. Equal educational opportunity is also a meaningless issue. But could we trade our meaningless issue for their meaningless issue? Ha! Surely you don’t think people are being rational about all this. Equal educational opportunity is, by means of the internal chemistry of the constitutional convention that consistently turns gold to dross, no longer one of the highest ideals of a democratic state but a special interest item for the blacks, to call them by their polite name. Just as your more perceptive laborites admit that r/w is not a real issue, so do the franker black delegates confess that equal educational opportunity, as it now stands in the new constitution, has no significance. But they are nevertheless perfectly prepared to defend to the death their right to have it in the new constitution. If r/w is an emotional/irrational issue with labor, equal educational opportunity moves black, brown and bleeding heart liberal representatives to positively jump up and down. The legal significance of the language was almost certainly injured beyond repair during debate over the education article. The original language commanded equal educational opportunity to be adjuged by the equitable distribution of taxes, for educational purposes, according to the wealth of the state as whole language August 9, 1974 3