I OPE Cald well’s SI:CHARLES II r E I. 1731 New Hampshire Ave., N.W. Washington, D.C. 20009 Froin$29 yinD.c. 800-424-2463 Call Toll Free the legendary RAW DEAL Steaks, Chops, Chicken open lunch and evenings 6th & Sabine, Austin No Reservations Good books in every field JENKINS PUBLISHING CO. The Pemberton Press John H. Jenkins, Publisher Box 2085 6 Austin 78768 Rural Aid Lawyers Help the Workers In the long office of Texas Rural Legal Aid, strangely similar in shape, but a lot newer than the housing where most of the migrant farmworkers who are their clients live, Managing Attorney Bill Beardall talks about TRLA’s accomplishments and losses. His cohorts, Harvard graduates all, occasionally yell out from other offices providing information or asking questions. It is a casual atmosphere. “Occasionally you’ll hear the word ‘tie,’ but you’ll never see them wearing one,” one local remarked. Even more occasionally, attorney Ed Tuddenham comes in performing Supreme Court decisions in deep voice, but only to stop and claim that they sound beautiful, “but what do they mean?” What they mean, to the local growers, packers, the sheriff, and county and city governments, is trouble and more informed farmworkers who are beginning to feel that they can finally go somewhere to argue for their new-found rights. With four attorneys, the other two being Lori Potter and Debbie Smith, and three paralegals, Trini Gamez, Raul Barrera, and Ofelia Estrada, TRLA has raised enough Panhandle dust to attract all types of media attention. including some major newspapers and CBS, which carried a report Sunday morning, July 12, on children in the fields. Beardall, surrounded by walls lined with law books and leaning on a table covered with even more law books, ex pUT YOUR BELIEFS INTO ACTION…. Invest I in Op I, Housing en Help fight racial segregation. Invest in a non-profit fund which finances affordable mortgages for minorities and whites making housing moves that foster racially diverse neighborhoods. For facts, clip and mail to: OB 3 Morris Miigram Fund for an OPEN Society 1901 East-West Highway, T-2 Silver Spring, MD 20910 Name . Address . Zip This is not an offer to sell these securities The offering is I made only by the Investment Description available I in only in states where these securities may be bflered 16 JULY 24, 1981 plains what TRLA has done since they opened in October, 1978, and is still trying to accomplish. “It is the only Legal Services office for farmworkers in this part of the state,” he says. “Two’things were discovered when we first got here. One, that a large number of people did not know they had legal rights that have been in the books for years. People believed that farmworkers were not covered by minimum wage laws and were astounded to find out they were. “Two, even the people who knew they had these rights realistically knew that there was no avenue to evoke them. People who tried had to go to a county judge and to other people who had much more at stake in the employer community.” The Cases Shortly after the 1970 census came out, says Beardall, Hereford changed its method of electing school board officials from at-large elections, conducted on a district-wide basis, to the numbered place system, in which: each sub-area elects a member of its own. The new system, TRLA believed, minimized the voting strengh of chicano voters, who the census showed had just become a numerical majority in the town. The changes had been effected without consulting with the Justice Department, which was a prerequisite under federal law. With pressure from TRLA, Hereford complied with the prerequisite, and the Justice Department rejected the change, finding for TRLA. School board members had already been elected under the new system. “We wanted new elections,” explained Beardall. A district court judge tried the case and agreed with TRLA; new elections had to be held. It was the first political controversy associated with TRLA. In the new elections, Anglo voters turned out in record numbers, Beardall said, “in an enormous backlash. Some chicanos ran, but they were swamped by the enormous Anglo turnout.” In 1979, the Castro County Public Housing Authority operated the 190-unit labor camp in Dimmit County. Says Beardall, “the board was made up entirely of growers, most of whom housed their own workers at the labor camp.’ Whole blocks of units were rented to private industries for private employers to use for their own private interests.” Units were sub-assigned to crew leaders, who decided who could stay and who should leave when. “To live there, workers had to agree to work for the employer who controlled those units,” says Beardall. Result: if people were already living in units and a crewleader would get assigned to those same units, “he would tell the people they would have to have at least five working adults living there,” he said. Families pooled their adults to get approved for a housing unit. Fourteen, fifteen people would be forced to live in each unit consisting of a 12’x16′ room and a kitchen. “Those who found better jobs could either leave their housing or forget about the better job,” says Beardall. There was no compromise. The strong conflict of interest among board members who were growers and were running public housing was ignored by the Department of Labor, he adds. The housing was built by federal subsidies by a private growers association that had prevailed on the county to get a Public Housing Authority. The county then appointed those same growers to the board. According to the TRLA attorney, “there was no system of keeping track of who their tenants were, no leases or records of how much rent they paid.” Allegedly, people were evicted for little or no cause. A former Texas Ranger who ran the place was said to run people out at pistol point, Beardall alleges. \(On this case see TO
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The Texas Rangers are tasked with investigating corruption and crimes by public officials. Those officials are rarely held accountable.