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Sun Belt Comes to Texas SUN BELT Employers Association, Inc. , is part of a network of some 300 anti union consulting and law firms dedicated to thwarting organizing drives and breaking unions that have won elections a $100 million a year industry, according to the AFL-CIO. The AFL-CIO, with its monthly RUB Sheet Report on Union Busters disseminates information about the tactics of such firms. Though the AFL-CIO files on Sun Belt are sketchy, the activities of Sun Belt’s California-based affiliate, West Coast Industrial are well-documented. Sun Belt’s president, L. Nelson Umble, serves as a consultant for WCIRA. WCIRA is known for its “ventilation” meetings captive audience sessions similar to those led by Sun Belt’s team of Umble, Mike O’Donnell, and Art Parker with DHR workers , last May. Such meetings, the RUB Sheet states, generally have these characteristics: they occur during working hours; there are eight to fifteen people at each meeting; early meetings are gripe sessions, where employees are allowed to “ventilate” all their problems, complaints and frustrations. In one recent case against WCIRA, an administrative law judge ordered the company to “cease and desist” from \(among activities; denying employees the right to be considered for job promotion because of union activity; paying off employees to induce them to vote against a union; and coercively interrogating employees as to why they wanted a union. In its own publication, Sun Belt lists some 50 satisfied customers of its own, and of WCIRA. Texas customers include Lifemark Corp. of Houston \(which has since rial Hospital \(whose personnel manager said he was unable to locate any record of having hired ment services contractor in Austin. TECOM called on Sun Belt several years ago to assist in contract negotiations with the International Association of Machinists at a Phoenix plant, cornpany president Tom Collins said. Collins said he was “unsatisfied with their performance and terminated the contract.” He declined to elaborate, saying only that the company ended up hiring the San Antonio law firm of Foster and Cheslock, whom he would “recommend without reservation.” Things went better for Sun Belt in its dealings with Phelps-Dodge Corp., whose Arizona copper mines have yielded the nation’s most prolonged and expensive strike in recent years. The strike began in July 1983, when 2,200 members of the United Steel Workers of America agreed to accept a three-year wage freeze but not the elimination of the clause that provided cost-of-living Phelps-Dodge refused to go along and demanded an end to COLA and other contract benefits. It was then, according to USWA Local 616 President Angel Rodriguez, that Phelps-Dodge brought in outside counsel. “They were pretty smart and pretty sleazy,” Rodriguez said. “Because most of the community is Hispanic, they brought in their own Hispanic guy to hold meetings with the workers.” The union has already spent more than $10 million in strike benefits and has recently opened a “corporate campaign” against the company meaning, among other things, that the union will put pressure on banks that lend money to Phelps-Dodge. But some observers believe the strike has failed, due in part to the company’s and its consultants’ -efforts to provoke the walkout. The union is now decertified as bargaining agent for the workers. Because a decertification election was held more than a year after the start of the strike, federal law permitted only current employees strikebreakers to vote, thus excluding the strikers’ voice. new concept in human resource management,” which, the brochure trumpets, will result in “greater growth potential with increased control over your capital and human resources. . . ” And how do they deliver these goods? By providing a “unique systems approach . . . that provides you with .. . preventative labor/strategy development, union avoidance campaigns and attitude assessment [read: are workers proor anti-union?] surveys.” The brochure further states that one may wish to hire Sun Belt “because aggressive labor unions have the staff, finances and determination to put organizations at a disadvantage knowing that many employers do not have resources to counter their thrust.” DHR’s Bond says Sun Belt’s “experience in the public sector” is what won the firm its state contract. “We were just focusing on what our employees’ problems were and how to straighten them out. It had nothing to do with any union avoidance work they may do.” Asked if he were aware of the company’s anti-union track record when he hired Sun Belt, Bond said: “No, not at first. But I do know that almost any management consulting firm does union work these days, so I wasn’t surprised.” A happy coincidence for Bond perhaps, but was he also ignorant about the outfit he retained in 1980 to conduct “education” sessions for DHR supervisors \(TO, At $800 per session, DHR hired Frank Parker of the Fort Worth-based Management Center of the Southwest, Inc. , to instruct twelve all-day classes. Bond at the time told the Observer he hired Parker, a disaffected former vice president of the Texas AFL-CIO, to teach middleand upper-level managers “how to answer employees’ questions about unions.” Parker described his work as “anti-union . . . you certainly couldn’t call it pro-union.” While Bond may insist that DHR contracted with Sun Belt for other purposes, the company itself, in its printed sales pitch, makes no such attempt to veil its mission. L. Nelson Umble, an industrial psychologist late of Bendix, founded the firm in 1977 “out of a need to provide corporations with preventive labor programs.” Along with affiliates in other parts of the country, the corporation gained nationwide recognition in its ability to successfully counter union organizing activities For DHR’s needs, Sun Belt has ‘concocted Coaching for Excellence to THE TEXAS OBSERVER 9