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residents begin to think about “managing our own destiny.” “I don’t expect us to ever get one industry that would dominate the whole town again.” The shutdown at Post has slipped into the distant past for most of the state it never gained much attention in the Texas press but it raises questions important to the future of industry in the state. And if unemployment is here to stay, perhaps it provides a glimpse of the economic future. How long can Texas workers depend on general prosperity or the good will of a company to look after their interests? How might they gain a stronger voice in decisions that affect their livelihoods and their communities? What is in store for a passive labor force in times of economic hardship? The cotton mill at Post was, of course, not unionized. John Redman, a 28-year veteran of the mill, remembers only one time when there was serious talk of a union, and that was “back years ago I mean a lot of years ago.” Stretching his memory, he places it in the early 1960s, shortly before Burlington bought the mill from the Eli Walker Company. Burlington had a unionized textile plant in Durham, N.C., Redman says, and Post workers ended up getting roughly the same wages and benefits, without having to throw in for union dues. In time, most of the workers took the attitude that “we can speak for ourselves, what do we need a union for?” Redman remembers. Unionization turned out to be “something that nobody paid any mind to.” In a similar way, talk of a worker buyout of the plant in 1982 was easily dismissed. “There was some talk about that here at one time before the plant shut down,” says Redman. But the workers, mostly management people with roots in Post, saw little chance of raising the $4 million the company was asking. “It never did get off the ground,” he says. \(But after the corporation was unable to find a buyer, it ended up donating the plant to the Post Economic Development Corp., accordEarl says Burlington was a “good corporate citizen” in Post, albeit with a “paternalistic corporate attitude in many ways.” But still, he is surprised there is not more ill feeling toward the company. Redman, who retired after a heart attack shortly before the closure, says he holds no grudge against the company and is happy with his retirement plan. But Larry Don Johnson has a different attitude. He says his unit in the mill was “like a family we discussed everything,” and the shutdown broke all that up. “They had bitter feelings about it,” he says of his fellow workers. “I’m kind of embittered about it myself.” Johnson says he was unemployed for a year and a half after he lost his mill job, and finally ended up taking a job at a convenience store for $4.50 an hour about half of what he made in the mill. John Redman detects something different in the attitude of some companies toward the workers these days. “Anymore, you’re just a number. That’s getting more true every day,” he says. “They’ve lost the fact that you’re a person and not a machine.” And yet the workers in Post like many laid-off workers in Texas have accepted their economic fortunes stoically. “They didn’t like it, but why get mad about it?” asks Redman. “There wasn’t anything we could do about it.” Beaumont THE WOMAN’S eyes dart from her co-workers, sorting through picket signs and meeting sched ules, to Schlesinger’s Geriatric Center, where she worked until midnight on July 1 this year. She is black, single and the mother of three. She walked off her job at the Beaumont facility as a medication aide because it was either that or accept a cut in pay from $4.10 an hour to $3.85 an hour. “I work because I hate welfare,” Lisa Ceasar said. “That’s why I work. I want to earn my own pay.” Rose Charles, a twelve-year Schlesinger veteran, also on strike, said that from her post under the picket tent she had listened to a man calling ‘nurse’ for an hour. “They’re like babes themselves; they’re used to us, and when we left, I know some of them just went into Regina Segovia is a former labor reporter for the Port Arthur News. 10 SEPTEMBER 13, 1985 withdrawal,” she said, “but we couldn’t live on what they were paying us. We couldn’t take a cut.” These women, concerned with their personal struggles to keep their yearly salaries of just over $5,000, are also taking a stand for nursing-home and health-care workers across the state. Theirs is the first strike at a state nursing home. “There is no doubt that the result will determine whether nursing-home workers will continue to be maintained at minimum-wage level, or whether through our efforts we can raise them,” said the local’s business agent Rich Hall. The Service Employees International homes here in 1982. The largest healthcare union in the country, with 875,000 members, is also the fastest growing union in the AFL-CIO. “Let’s put it this way. This is not a fight we are prepared to lose,” Hall said. “Our union, just moving into Texas and the South, cannot afford to absorb a beating just as the representation wins are beginning to mount.” The union hoped to find fertile ground in Jefferson County, which still has a pro-union reputation. But the timing was off. At the same time this union began organizing workers, Golden Triangle Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers and craft union leaders were meeting with business leaders in Jefferson County. The established unions agreed to talk past contract deadlines, the idea being to keep strikes and picket lines off the news wires. When picket signs appeared in front of the nursing home, the action went against the grain of the program started by the labor-business coalition, Planning for Economic Progress. The union sees Schlesinger Home and five others in Beaumont, as well as Baptist Hospital, as a springboard for the union in the state, despite the local disapproval of its activities. The total Texas membership of 1,500 is a small percentage of the 385,000 members nationwide. It includes membership in homes in the northeast part of the state. In a demonstration of its commitment to organizing Texas, the union has embarked on an expensive media campaign backing the 160 striking workers. Union members have called on board members, patient relatives, and churches. They have also passed out leaflets in neighborhoods. In mid-July, full-page newspaper advertisements and Beaumont Health Strike Has Broad Implications By Regina Segovia