TIC: time to turn it around By Jeannette Garrett Austin Turnover in the top jobs at the Texas Industrial Commission is creating an opportunity at long last to redirect the energies of the agency, which has concentrated mainly on courting out-of-state industries instead of directly serving the needs of Texas small businesses and working people \(Obs., 12-member commission has four new members already, four more seats are due to be filled by Governor Clements, and TIC has a new executive director for the first time in ten years. However, whether the shift in personnel will actually mean a turnaround in policy remains to be seen, and the early returns on the new management are decidedly mixed. For one thing, the four new commisseem to be cut from the same cloth as their predecessorsthey’re businessmen and professionals of the boosterish persuasion. Zack Burkett of Graham, for instance, is the owner of a highway construction firm, a director of the Associated General Contractors of America, and was one of the interested parties who helped Briscoe rush his bloated highway construction appropriation bill through the ’77 Legislature. Attorney Don Adams, appointee to one of the three commission slots reserved for rural representatives, is a former state legislator who served a stint as Briscoe’s jack-of-all-trades in the governor’s office. He is also a lobbyist for the Texas Association of Business and for a business coalition out to rewrite the law on products liability in its favor during the current legislative session. The third new face on the commission is Jim Sale of Dallas, vice president and director of Weber, Hall, Cobb & Caudle, Inc., an investment firm. Sale has been an active figure in the Dallas Security Dealers Association. Ray Clymer, president of Golden Distributing Company Falls, is the other recent appointee. He also owns a controlling interest in CBS Inc.’s Wichita Falls television affiliate, and was named “outstanding industrial developer” a few years back by the Texas Industrial Development Council, a hybrid public/private group \(in which to the ideal of industrial expansion and, by the sound of reports carried in TIC’s newsletters, to mutual admiration. In marked contrast is the background of Gerald Brown, TIC’s new executive director. To be sure, he was a TIC commissioner himself from 1967 to 1977, and headed the agency’s program development and research department for a couple of months before the commission picked him to run the agency. But Brown started out as a workingman, became the head of the state AFL-CIO building and construction trades division, and served a stint as regional representative of the U.S. Department of Labor in Dallas. Brown’s background also differentiates him from his predecessor, Jim Harwell, a former chamber-of-commerce official who has moved on to manage his own international agribusiness firm. Sparing Cleveland Harwell did his successor at least one notable service before he lefthe canceled TIC’s egregious plan for a February TV advertising blitz of Cleveland, Ohio, a campaign that would have capitalized on that city’s economic crisis by making a direct pitch to area businessmen to pack up and move their operations to Texas. This raid into the North was to cost $5,000, with the balance of the $16,380 tab to be picked up by “participating professional industrial developers”utility companies, banks and railroads from all over Texas. The decision to cancel was made not because of belated scruples but because of fear that it might backfire, infuriate the Yankees, and attract unfavorable national attention. It was a “case of bad timing,” says Bud Reed, the head of TIC’s advertising department. So, although the Cleveland campaign was a bust, TIC is still enthusiastic about the basic idea of such cooperative advertising efforts with private companies, and the commission is on the lookout for “future opportunities” to try it again. Still thinking big When asked about TIC’s use of this kind of out-of-state advertising, which invites companies to relocate here by citing the state’s low unemployment compensation rates and weak labor laws, executive director Brown had this to say: “We depend on the experts to tell us what they feel will or won’t attract industry.” He added, “We can’t hide the fact that we do have low workers’ compensation.” Coors is “encouraged” by the vote, says Bob Keyser, the company’s new “corporate communications supervisor.” It shows, he declares, that the brewery employees favor working directly with the company rather than through some “independent third party” like a union. But Nick Kurko, regional AFL-CIO director, says, “It’s ridiculous to say that the vote was a vote of confidence in the Coors management.” The element of fear among Coors workers, he believes, figured greatly in the election result. In the 408 men and women who voted for the union, Desmarais sees the root of labor strength. This group, she says, “is staying together and working together as an in-plant committee to build the union inside the plant” in preparation for another certification election possibly later this year. “This is why we’ll remain a union and work so hard,” she vows “because we do have the nucleus of people to do the job.” Outside the plant the union maintains an office, and most of its members have hung on in Golden, despite the dearth of jobs in that economically depressed area. Local 366 isn’t alone in its fight. The national AFL-CIO has renewed its sanction against Coors and is extending its boycott efforts to all 16 states where the beer is currently sold. AFL-CIO president George Meany declared last spring that “Coors has placed a price tag on human rights, and it is up to the labor movement to ensure there is no profit in denying Coors workers their human rights.” In all, Sickler says, 186 organizations have lent their support to the boycott, among them the Teamsters, the Longshoremen, the United Auto Workers,the United Farm Workers, the United Mine Workers, the American GI Forum, chapters of the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Organization for Women, the Texas Women’s Political Caucus, the NAACP, the League of United Latin American Citizens, the A. Philip Randolph Institute, and the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement. Sickler is particularly impressed by the boycott drive waged by the Texas AFL-CIO, whose work, he says, has been “just tremendous.” For Local 366 and its supporters, the boycott has become a battle of wills with Joe Coors, the company’s president. “He’ll finally learn,” says Sickler, “when he has no more money than he has brains.” Says Desmarais: “It is crucial to win here, because we don’t want to face another Joe Coors on another front in the future. He is an example to the business community and his attitude is ‘I’ll show you how to bust unions.’ We want to show him that it can’t be done.” 0 Bob Sindermann Jr. is an assistant editor and Viki Florence is a staff assistant of the Observer. 28 MARCH 2, 1979
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