Habla espaiiol? A federal judge in El Paso has made an astounding ruling that the speaking of Spanish can be prohibited by an employer. U.S. District Judge William S. Sessions ruled that “while on business premises and work time and work areas, employees will not, while talking about work-related matters, speak any language not understood and spoken by all the employees and supervisors.” The court ruling grew out of a dispute between Robert Resendez, an employee at State National Bank, and his supervisor in the mail room. Resendez quit his job after he was “verbally admonished” for disobeying a bank rule that no Spanish be spoken on the job. Thinking he had pretty good grounds for a discrimination suit and believing that there was something in the Constitution about free speech, Resendez took the bank to court. He lost: Mexican-American groups retaliated by calling a boycott of State National, and claimed they had effected the withdrawal of some $6 million from the institution. In fact, year-end bank deposits at State National showed a loss of $9.2 million since 1977. At the same time, several Hispanic groups sought to purchase a newspaper ad denouncing the bank, but the Newspaper Printing. Corporation, publisher of both the El Paso Times and the El Paso Herald-Post, refused to print the advertisement, saying it has a policy against printing any ads that “threaten or harm the reputation of any person, business or product.” Local attorney George McAlmon filed a $250,000 damage suit against the newspapers on behalf of the American G.I. Forum, the Association of Mexican-American Educators, the League of United Latin American Citizens, and the Paso del Norte Mexico Chamber of Commerce. Meanwhile, State National officials, despite assurances to the public that their falling bank deposits were the result of some kind of seasonal accounting problem, were desperately negotiating with Mexican-American leaders to end all this unpleasantness. The bankers joined with Mexican-Americans in an agreement that would call for a new trial, allow Resendez to drop his suit, and help get rid of some bad law. In their pleadings, attorneys for Resendez and the Chicano Bar Association asked Judge Sessions to go along with the agreement. They asked that part of his ruling be erased so that there would be no precedent to support such policies by employers elsewhere. But the federal jurist was not obliging. “The court has not, and the bank has not, denied the right to speak Spanish . . ..only limited it,” he . declared. “If I spoke German to you right now, your face would .go blank,” Sessions told Chicano Bar attorney Albert Armendariz. “We couldn’t conduct the business of the court.” Chicano Bar attorneys aren’t saying what they’ll do next, although it’s expected that they’ll appeal the ruling. Meanwhile, El Paso State Rep. Paul Moreno has introduced a bill to prohibit employers from banning the use of Spanish among their employees. The legislation provides for triple monetary damages if a person is refused employment, discharged or discriminated against for speaking the language. Paul Sweeney Five hundred demonstrators from around the state converged on the Capitol January 21 to call for passage of a law banning transportation and storage of nuclear waste in Texas. The crowd was buoyed by the defeat the previous day of Austin’s Proposition 14, which would have obliged the city to retain its part interest in the South Texas Nuclear Project \(Austin voters may get a organized by the Lone Star Alliance, a coalition of six Texas anti-nuclear organizations. Study group Those who figured the defeat of the Sam Houston Caucus reforms dur ing the opening weeks of the legislative session meant the demise of reason in the House might examine the success of the House Study Group. The group’s members have little in common besides their contribution of $100 a month to support a research staff of eightand a desire to obtain solid information on matters before the House. Under study group chairman John Bryant of Dallas, the researchers issue written reports analyzing current issues laying out pertinent facts and arguments pro and con. The group does not lobby and does everything possible to avoid a hint of bias. But neither does it shy away from pointing out what’s bad about a bill. Last session, several pork-barrel projects were abandoned when the study group’s meticulous dissection of the appropriations bill exposed the fat for all to see. . Of late, the group has gained increased punchits membership is up to 90 members from last session’s high of 60. That’s 60 percent of the House and nothing to sneeze at. Vicki Vaughan 12 FEBRUARY 16, 1979
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