Page 22


what has already been decided. We’ve been told there are already two sites, there are now five sites. We know that Texas is at the top of the hit list.” Sinkin later elaborated on his opinions about the NRC and the DOE. “When I told the Observer, “I don’t mean that they are on the take. I mean that they have abandoned any pretense of protecting human health and safety. They will go to any length to protect the nuclear industry, which at this time is in big trouble.” He also said that Texas may be the best political choice because Texans were slow in mounting an opposition to the site. Mattox echoed this concern when he told the Observer that former Gov. Clements’ policy of cooperation on this issue may have put Texas at a disadvantage because other states chose from the outset not to cooperate. The tide, however, appears to be turning. Though the people at the hearing were few in number, they represented a diversity of interests. On this issue, it is not just the anti-nuclear groups like Mobilization for Survival that are moving, but officials, corporations, farmers, and specialists. Oil company officials are concerned about the oil exploration that has recently begun in the area, farmers are worried about crops and land values, food corporations are worried about product sales, and bankers are probably concerned about whether or not they will continue to attract investment capital into the area. No one believes that the technology exists to safely protect the surrounding area, and they told the DOE that they are ready to fight to preserve this land. One farmer, who has a family farm in the area, warned the panel of his family’s traditional vow to sell no land before the end of time. A Viet Nam vet vowed that “We will march against, speak out against, blockade against your every move.” Attorney General Mattox threatened a courtroom battle, and Gov. White has the option of vetoing a Texas site; a two-thirds vote in the Congress is necessary to override such a veto. If the DOE wants to make decisions based on political rather than rational, data-based premises, Texans have issued warnings that the politics will get much hotter and that protests can be expected from all sectors. Sinkin, optimistic after the hearing in spite of the small turnout, concluded, “I would not be surprised if we succeeded in stopping the DOE on this one. I have rarely seen the level of political unity that I see now against this issue. When Texas is unified it will be hard to stop.” Dallas Next year, Phyllis Hunter will retire from her job on the General Motors assembly line in Oklahoma City where she spends her workdays aiming headlights on the Buick Century and the Chevrolet Citation. For Hunter, 57, retirement will mean more time around her three-bedroom house, time to manage property she owns in Houston and Fort Smith, Ark., and time to visit relatives. “I’ve been able to do things that I’ve never dreamed I’d be able to do,” Hunter, a widow, says. But Hunter, who helped persuade fellow workers to join the United Automobile Workers union three years ago, expresses no gratitude toward GM. “I owe it all to the union,” she says. “A company gives you a job, but a union gives you benefits.” Hunter’s success story, which admittedly sounds like union propaganda, is growing increasingly rare these days. As 5,000 UAW members delegates and relatives packed up from their $5 million convention in Dallas and headed back to their factory towns, the proud union, now led by new president Owen Bieber, faced more uncertainty than at any period since the Great Depression. The future for the 1.1 million members of the UAW, of course, hinges largely on the fate of the American auto industry. Since 1979, the number of jobs in the industry shrank from slightly over 1 million to 680,000. Even more jobs 770,000 have been lost in the auto-supply sector. An economic rebound won’t restore many of these jobs. “The auto industry is never going to be as big and strong in sales and growth,” said Pat Wright, author of On a Clear Day You Can See General Motors and a longtime industry observer. “People are changing their buying habits.” The UAW is pushing hard for national “domestic content” legislation that would restrict the sales of automobiles in the US Frequent Observer contributor Paul Sweeney is a free-lance writer living in Austin. that weren’t made by American workers. This would require foreign manufacturers to locate their Toyota or Volkswagen plants in this country. And it would mean that up to 90 % of the parts in a Firebird or a Lincoln or whatever be made here. This would prevent the foreign subcontracting, or “outsourcing,” that has become more common. Even so, smaller automobiles, robots, and other forms of new technology will mean less employment. “Substantial technological change is going to take place,” Douglas A. Fraser, former UAW president who retired last week, says. “We’d like to resist. But how can we compete with the Japanese?” He added: “We do not see the automobile industry the workforce.” Although it surfaced as muted criticism at the convention, the UAW is torn with dissension. Many see Fraser and Bieber who had been head of the UAW’s General Motor’s department as too willing to grant givebacks and concessions. \(The UAW leadership prefers to call the loss of income improvements and In his maiden speech as president, Bieber faced up to the implicit charge by issuing a strong message. “We’ve made our concessions. We’ve helped the industry survive,” the burly, six-foot-five union president told a cheering audience. “We’ve given all we’re going to give. We’re tired of being blamed for the industry’s problems.” For the 53-year-old Bieber, who is not well known among the rank and file, the convention speech was clearly a call for a hard line on union demands and a return to the union’s tradition of political activism. His tenure as president will be the first by a UAW leader whose life experiences were not shaped during the pitched battles between company strongmen and workers in the 1930s. Born two months after the stock market crash in 1929, Bieber was only eight years old during the Flint, Michigan sitdown strikes at General Motors in 1937, when the union, under the leader Auto Workers Confront Fewer Jobs, Uncertain Economy By Paul Sweeney 6 JUNE 3, 1983