Page 76


such as health care. Meriwether said the governor’s office is preparing reports on these possibilities for consideration by the Texas Department of Correcinterim legislative committee investigation. Governor White, Meriwether said, “wanted to get the ball rolling for planting a seed for looking for alternatives.” THIS MONTH a 175-bed detention center for undocumented workers opened in Laredo. It will be operated by the Corrections Corporation of America for the Immigration and detention facility is being run in Houston by the same company for INS. The New York Times reports that the Corrections Corporation of America also operates a federal prison in Fayetteville, North Carolina, and a 325-bed jail in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Another private firm is building a $20 million, 715-bed maximum security penitentiary in Pennsylvania. According to Charles Sullivan, the private prison industry is hoping to make inroads in Texas’ vast prison system to use as a bellwether for expansion into other states. Private prison advocates are well-placed among Mark White’s friends and contributors. In addition, former Secretary of State John Fainter represents investors interested in private prison prospects. But there are problems inherent in the privatization of the prison system, problems best articulated by outgoing TDC board member Harry Whittington. Interviewed in his Austin law office, Whittington said, “I have expressed some reservations about it. I don’t know whether this is the kind of authority that can be delegated to a profit-oriented company. The shareholders look to you [to make money]. The care and treatment of people is a responsibility that shouldn’t be delegated by the state because you lose accountability to the families of those people and to the people of the State of Texas. “If you have an inside contractor, there is another layer of authority. . . . Even if it were cheaper, I’m not in favor of it. It would delegate to somebody absolute control over another person’s life. That’s not the kind of thing that should be delegated. We would be abdicating our responsibility to take care of these people, and we would lose contact with the people [we are responsible for]. . . . If things get tough, they [could] just contract them away.” Whittington’s reservations extend beyond the state’s responsibility to considerations of the kind of contractual relationship a state would enter into with a private contractor. “What if they default on the contract?” he asked. “Do you close the prison? In the long run, it might be a contract you couldn’t break, but in which you wouldn’t get the services [called for in the contract]. “I don’t see how you could draw a contract tight enough to have what I want to see in it. The character, compassion, the type of people [hired to work in the prisons] would be important to me. I don’t know how you could put all that in a contract.” Austin THOUGH THE STATE of Texas has never been bashful about its distaste for organized labor, rarely do we find an agency leader as explicitly and outspokenly anti-union as D. W. Bond, Jr., of the Texas Depart”If we have unions in Texas for state employees,” Bond has warned, “then every decision, every move you make is questioned. If we have unions, clients will not get services on a timely basis. The management of this agency does not need unions to help us run our business.” Bond, an assistant commissioner of personnel management for the Department, hammered this message home at a March 1983 management seminar that happened to be infiltrated by a supervisor with pro-union sympathies. Bond since then has gone a step further in his campaign to snuff out the flames of unionism by hiring an Ari Bill Adler is an employee of the Texas State Employees Union. zona-based firm with a history of “union avoidance” work. DHR awarded the innocuously-named Sun Belt Employers Assn., Inc., two contracts worth nearly $20,000 last year to conduct an “employee relations survey” and, subsequently, to develop what the agency calls its “Coaching for Excellence” program. The program began March 1 and is scheduled to last Sun Belt, Inc., claims to represent “a totally new concept in human resource management.” through August. \(State contracts exceeding $10,000 require competitive bidding; DHR dodged this bullet by drawing up two contracts with Sun Belt one for $9,700 in May and the other “They were personnel type communications specialists,” Bond explained in an interview in his spacious office at the new DHR state headquarters in north Austin. “Their purpose was to get better communication going between supervisors and employees.” Members of the Texas State Employees Union, CWA, AFL-CIO, who are organizing primarily non-supervisory workers throughout state government, sharply contradict this benign portrayal, charging that the $640-a-day-consultants are subtly waging a state-subsidized antiunion campaign. “Hiring Sun Belt is a blatant slap in the face because of their self-proclaimed anti-union record,” said Paula McClain Mixson, a union steward and program specialist in the state office. “If management really cared about employees, they’d be listening to the union instead of shutting their ears to any suggestions bearing the union label and doing everything in their power to dodge the issues.” SUN BELT SHUNS the term “union buster” in its brochure, instead employing behavior-mod ification jargon peppered with references to the firm’s reason for being. \(In a brief telephone conversation from Sun Belt’s Scottsdale, Arizona offices, Executive Vice President Michael J. O’Donnell politely but firmly declined to be interviewed, saying only: “Our company has a policy that any sort of information released has to come from Sun Belt claims to represent a “totally Agency Moves Against Unions By Bill Adler 8 MARCH 22, 1985