A Case In Point RECENTLY, Westinghouse Electric, the thirteenth biggest Pentagon contractor in the nation, went looking for a place to put a new war electronics plant. Westinghouse considered forty towns and cities around the country. Texas’ College Station won. “One of the big drawing cards was Texas A&M,” explained Bill Sensibaugh, director of human resources at the College Station plant. The plant opened in January 1983, and approximately 300 of its workers, who produce printed circuit boards for weapons and fighter plane radar systems, have been trained by Texas A&M using money provided by the state Indus trial Start-Up Training program. The A&M employee who runs the start-up training at Westinghouse, Robert Ellis, described the program: “We first identify the people who can apply. For 300 people, we started with about 1500 applicants. They have to have good vision because they’ll be working with small, color-coded boards. We give them three days of preemployment training in dexterity, pre-soldering, and assembly. The classes are at night. Then we recommend to the company some of those people. We’re really avoiding a major problem for the company here. Next they receive thirty hours of on-site training, and they are paid by the company. Then they are screened again, and the ones who become employees receive three to six months of on-the-job training, supervised by other Westinghouse employees. We reimburse the company for the supervisors’ wages.” This year’s budget for state money for the Westinghouse program is $87,920. “You can train so many people this way, and it costs so little,” Ellis said. “And the dropout rate is less than five percent. That’s startling. A twenty-five percent attrition rate is common in industry.” “The first of the Industrial StartUp Programs was in 1972 at the Westinghouse plant in Round Rock [also a defense contractor],” Ellis said. “There are six hundred companies that have moved to or started in Texas in the last fifteen years. Industrial Start-Up is one of the major incentives for them to settle here.” N. R. Coalition Demands a PCB-free Gulf 6 HE SPIRIT of the American people is being discussed as wan ing. But that’s not the case with us, the people of the Rio Grande Valley,” said Sue Ann Fruge, spokeswoman for the Gulf Coast Coalition for Public Health. On May 22, the Environmental ProWaste Management, Inc. , research permits which would have allowed the corporation to incinerate 3 million gallons of PCB-laden wastes and 250,000 gallons of U.S.. Defense Department stocks of liquid DDT, on board its ships Vulcanus I and II in the Gulf of Mexico. The Gulf Coast coalition, \(see TO, ing near-unanimous opposition among Valley citizens to toxic-waste incineration in the Gulf, was not the only organization sharing the fruits of victory in that surprising decision. Valley Interfaith, a Texas Interfaith network associate; conservation groups such as the state Sierra Club, the Valley’s Scott Lind is a reporter for The Monitor in McAllen. By Scott Lind Frontera Audubon Society, Greenpeace International and the Cousteau Society;. the States of Texas and Louisiana through their respective attorneys general; and fishers’ and shrimpers’ associations all played roles in bringing about a change in direction by the Reagan administration-directed EPA. Independents, Democrats and Republicans of the Rio Grande Valley flexed their political muscles and won a delay. What motivated Rio Grande Valley citizens’ concerns was anxiety over the possibilities of long-term contamination of the entire Gulf basin in case an incinerator ship’s cargo should be jettisoned. In an area intimately aware of problems associated with the widespread application of pesticides, the prospect of contamination of the Gulf s food chain through accidental spillages of PCB-laden wastes and the possible infiltration of partially combusted wastes into the marine system seemed more than hypothetical contingencies. This was compounded by revelations of lawsuits filed in at least a half dozen states against ChemWaste and/or its parent organization, Waste Management, Inc. ChemWaste had already conducted two “research” burns at a site 170 miles east-southeast of Brownsville in December, 1981, and August, 1982. The Washington Post estimated that ChemWaste netted between $10 million and $25 million from those two research burns. “It’s refreshing that the democratic process still works,” said Fruge. “It seems that in this day and age, most people are afraid to even attempt making a difference through work in the political realm.” The EPA’s move surprised virtually everyone involved in the ocean incineration issue. Jack Ravan, EPA assistance administrator for water, denied ChemWaste the four research permits, noting that the company had not even sought research permits in the first place. Steve Shatzow, the EPA hearing officer at the Brownsville EPA public hearing in November, had counseled against granting ChemWaste three-year special permits for incinerating toxic wastes about a month before the EPA’s May decision; but he did advocate four “research” burn permits. By the time Ravan made his decision, Shatzow had been transferred to the EPA’s pesticide division. Ravan credited his decision in part to THE TEXAS OBSERVER 13
You May Also Like
The documentary in Falfurrias is sinister and spiritual.