A bank doemit have tote stuffy. A bank is in business to serve you, not to intimidate you. You trust us with your money, the very least we can do is make you feel welcome. Some welcome fresh air from Austin’s unstuffy bank. AININEONAL 11th and Interregional In Union there’s strength. Brown Beret \(or a man wearing a brown hand. Rocks have been thrown and truck windows broken. Farmworkers who have refused to join the picket line have been threatened, harassed, abused, chased, and pelted with rocks. An undetermined number of honeydew melons have been squashed underfoot by picketers. Orendain recognizes that he has had problems with violence and unruliness on the picket lines. “Seventy-five percent of the strikers are from Reynosa,” he said. “And they don’t worry so much about breaking the law over here. They give our picket captains a hard time.” UFW attorney Jim Harrington added, “Over there, the law is on the side of the workers when there is a strike. If someone crosses a picket line in Reynosa, which is a heavily unionized town, he can expect to get knoCked around. So the people from Reynosa have a hard time adjusting to the situation in Hidalgo County.” Harrington, 29, has been the UFW attorney in the Valley for two years. He is paid by the South Texas Project, a non-profit legal foundation. He speaks fluent Spanish and seems to enjoy an excellent rapport with his clients. His legal work in support of the strike includes defending the union against grower attempts to win injunctions prohibiting or restricting the picketing of their fields. He is also pleading a suit against C. L. Miller by the demonstrators wounded in the El Texano shootings. Another discipline problem for the strikers is the unsolicited “help” they have been receiving from the Brown Berets. Although rumors periodically circulated through the service center about carloads of Berets driving in from San Antonio, most of the Berets seemed to be homegrown, members of a McAllen chapter of the organization they said had been founded in 1970. The Berets declare that they are on the picket line “to serve and protect” the huelgistas. They seem oblivious to arguments that their paramilitary organization uniforms of berets and khaki fatigues and general air of Black Panther-style militancy tend to create confrontations or exacerbate already dangerous situations like the Brand pistol-waving incident. For his part, Brand is convinced that the Berets and “Puerto Rican revolutionary groups” have been hired by the UFW to terrorize the growers. Brand, 56, was born in Georgia and describes himself as a 40-year veteran in agribusiness. He and his family moved to the Valley 20 years ago, he said, and he has been on either the McAllen city commission or school board since 1962. Brand will not countenance use of the words “strike,” “pickets,” or “union” in his presence when discussing current events in Hidalgo County. The UFW is not a real union in his estimation. “The UFWOC group has been here for ten years and hasn’t done anybody any good,” he said. “Not one of my workers has joined the agitators.” He ascribes the union’s failure to “their repugnant tactics.” “The problem down here is not wages,” he said. “There are plenty of restaurant workers and filling station attendants who make less than the farmworkers do. The issue here is the UFWOC’s attempt to coerce the farmers into signing contracts with them. They want to be in control of the ranches.” Farm workers at the Griffin-Brand ranches are earning $2.50 per hour this year, he said, and added that all the growers of the Valley pay the federal minimum wage of $1.80 per hour for farm labor. This contention is disputed by strike leaders, who say that workers were earning as little as $1.60 per hour when the strike began. Since then, they say, wages have risen to as high as $2.50 per hour. Although wages may have risen as a result of the huelga, other effects of the strike .are harder to gauge. It seems unlikely that the strikers will. be given the opportunity they are demanding for secret ballot elections to determine if Valley workers want to be represented by the UFW.. At least not this go-round. Brand spoke for most growers when he said that “under no circumstances or conditions” would he consent to elections or even meet with strike leaders. The same 40 growers who appealed to Briscoe for the Rangers also rejected in unison an offer by Bishop Fitzpatrick of Brownsville to act as a mediator between strikers and growers. Now that the melon harvest in the Valley is ending, it remains to be seen if Orendain’s tactics will work in the ranches of West Texas or if the brief and bitter struggle in the Valley will move Texas farmworkers any closer to unionization or collective bargaining. One probable effect of the strike was pointed out by attorney Harrington. Noting the relative calm with which ranchers and law enforcement officers were handling the picketing, Harrington said, “Starr County was the site of most of the violence and repression in the 1966 strike. A suit against the Rangers which originated in Starr County eventually went to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Rangers lost. “This lesson has not been lost on the Starr County officials this time. I think the same thing will probably happen in Hidalgo County. Once things have settled down over here, the ranchers will realize how stupid they have looked.” June 20, 1975 5 MARTIN ELFA NT SUN LIFE OF CANADA LIFE HEALTH DENTAL 600 JEFFERSON SUITE 430 HOUSTON, TEXAS 224-0686
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