Page 7


And in Texas . . Apparel and textile manufacturers have traditionally required cheap labor to stay competitive, and since World War H northern firms have been drawn to small towns and cities along the Mexican border and wherever else an inexpensive chicano work force could be found. Quietly, Texas has developed a textile and apparel industry large enough to turn out more than half the men’s trousers produced in the U.S. However, growth has done little for Texas mill hands, especially ‘textile workers. In 1970, their average hourly wage was $2.18, compared to $3.18 for general manufacturing workers. The gap has widened in the last seven years, and the comparative figures today are $3.58 and $5.24. Union activity in textiles has been negligible and not much has gone on among apparel workers since the successful Farah boycott. Texas apparel workers are organized at six Levi Straus plants around the state, at the three Farah and two Hortex plants in El Paso, at the four Salant mills in Salant, at Gant Shirt’s San Antonio plant, and at Aldon, Inc. \(a division of fels. Many of the big names in Texas apparels, especially Haggar, Williamson and Dickey, Blue Bell and Sidran Sportswear are non-union. The Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union, with an organizing staff of 15 to 18 office and field workers for the entire state, has focused of late on the two-plant Mission Valley Mills operation in New Braunfels, the largest local employer. Mission Valley sold out to Georgia’s WestPoint 1972 when hometown president Elliot Knox told his 2,200 workers that the mill just couldn’t make it anymore in the face of big-time competition. Within a year of the takeover, WPP poured millions into new, highspeed looms for the production of “fancy” fabrics and denim 80 percent of Mission Valley’s output is Tufskin denim for Sears. Nine hundred workers lost their jobs before the end of 1973, and the 1,300 who were kept on saw their work quotas go up and their paychecks decrease. Meanwhile, WPP’s profits climbed by 39 percent. Stockholders received a double dividend in 1974, but nothing was done about dangerously high noise and cotton dust levels at Mission Valley. The situation seemed_ ripe for organizing, but after a six-month eampaign, the ACTWU was able to win only 22 percent of the vote in a representation election held in October, 1975. Thirteen months later, ACTWU lost a second election, but raised its share of the vote to 30 percent. WPP has fought unionization with threats to shut down its New Braunfels plants if ACTWU wins bargaining rights. A third election is scheduled for October. The Texas score Textile Apparel Number of plants* 92 637 Number of workers* 7,100 73,300 Average . wage per hour* $3.25 $3.58 Volume of business* \(value of industrial ship$176 $1.375 Number of unionized plants 0 17 Number of union ized workers 0 6,500 * Texas Employment Commission; March, 1977, figures ** U.S. Dept. of Commerce, 1973 figures The company has launched a twopronged counterattack. When talking to other textile officials and the general public, Stevens’ officers maintain that the boycott will not hurt sales and that they are not concerned about its effects on the company’s reputation. Jim Finley told the Textile Institute in Asheville, N.C., that a successful boycott against a company with as diversified a product line and as many brand labels as Stevens is “impossible.” With its employees, however, Stevens takes a different tack. Last fall, an “Employees’ Educational Committee” was formed among Stevens’ workers to consolidate antiunion feeling. The committee, supposedly funded by individual, not corporate, contributions, has distributed handbills at plant gates contending that the boycott was costing Stevens money and threatened the jobs of Stevens’ employees. The committee’s aim is to decertify the ACTWU at Roanoke Rapids. The committee has retained Robert A. Valois, a Raleigh, N.C., lawyer who has represented management in other antiunion campaigns in North Carolina. Valois managed the successful 1972 U.S. Senate campaign of archconservative Republican Jesse Helms. Valois, in turn, has hired transplanted Texan Robert T. Click to advise the Robert T. Click committee on day-to-day matters during the decertification campaign. Click is a notorious union-buster. After graduating from North Texas State University and serving in the Air Force, he joined Rockwell International in Houston. \(Rockwell has a long antitant personnel manager of the Rockwell plant in Sheridan, Ark., and as personnel manager in Kearney, Neb., where he helped decertify the United Steelworkers following a strike. He was transferred to North Carolina in late 1971 to help fight off an organizing drive by the International Association of Machinists in Raleigh. The machinists lOst the initial election in Raleigh, railed a year later, won and signed a one-year contract. When the contract expired, the union struck Rockwell. The company hired scabs, never lost a day of production and, with the help of Click and Valois, won a decertification election in July, 1974. Violence seems to follow Click. During the Raleigh strike, cars and homes were shot at, fights broke out on the picket lines, and sugar was poured into the gas tanks of union supporters. ACTWU and AFL-CIO officials worry that -Stevens employees may grow discouraged with unionism because of the protracted and so far fruitless negotiations with management. Union leaders fear that their inability to win a contract and Click’s antiboycott propaganda could drive the workers to a decertification vote. Further, it is thought Click’s record and presence in Roanoke Rapids mean that violence is inevitable. able. So far, though, the newly organized workers have stood behind their union and, according to Clyde Bush, ACTWU’s representative in Roanoke Rapids, they still show patience and restraint in avoiding both a strike and violent confrontation with the company. Paul Fortney is a North Carolinabased freelance writer.