Mr. Schles “There may come a day when orphan asylums are no longer necessary, because people are becoming more and more interested in adopting to find a case where anyone wanted , to adopt an old person.” A. W. Schlesinger IN THE FALL of 1946, a Beaumont businessman rescued seven old, forgotten men from a board ing house so infested with lice that the parasites could be scooped up in handfuls. It was before Medicaid. A.W. Schlesinger sold’ $13,000 worth of bonds and built a nice dormitoi y for these men. It was the seed of the largest nursing home in Texas, which is now facing a strike by its employees. He eventually gave up his wholesale tobacco business and devoted his life to the elderly. The following is taken from excerpts from Schlesinger’s journal, The Love Story of Mr. Schles \(compiled and “We finally came upon Mr. Medina lying on the wet, dirty, cold floor, fully clothed in khaki garments and with a bowl full of cooked red beans sitting next to his face on the floor. Of course rats and nearly everything else had been running all over it Mr. Medina was lying as if he were dead. I got down, checked him, and found that he was still alive. I picked him up in my arms, and while Mr. Cisnara led the way with a flashlight we managed to squirm through the debris again and placed him in the car. On to the home we wen, I took him up again, pla0 the warm-water tub, washed Turn as best I could -the worst part refilled it and gave him a good bath. Schlesinger records that three basically fine, well-meaning gen men” asked if he intendedpi that “dirty , black WO home. He replied: “Gentleman, ttsmay that you and all the ~otheroesidents may see fit to 1 can sure Mr. Medina an here.” He went on tc,. never said another % in the home, as “fl: . would, perfectly reg tented. “Mr. Medina was born and came to this country at early age, but never took out citizen ship papers. But he did help to build our great country through a long stint of backbreaking work, laying cross ties and rails for subsequent use by our vital freight and passenger trains. He had no known relatives.” Schlesinger picked up countless forgotten old people, one with face cancer, others near death, and carried them with his own hands and bathed them. He did the work of a nurse’s aide. But the people who care for the present residents at the home are poor black women. They do the same work the founder did but aren’t paid as much for it as those who take care of the city’s garbage. R.S. replacements either had the proper certification to work in the home or were in the process of getting it. There have been at least seven inspections of the facility since the strike began, according to state health department spokeswoman Charliene Stowers. “We have had no evidence of any problems,” she said. “There has been no decline in care due to the strike.” Inspections are done by local health departments who are not allowed to comment directly to the press. They send in written reports to Austin. “We don’t actually do hands-on inspections of patients,” said Stowers. “One of the staff takes an inspector around, and they study charts. Any problem would show up on the charts.” In the two months since the strike began, the politics of the strike have escalated. In late August, the members of the SEIU local collected 1200 valid signatures to force a November recall election of Beaumont Mayor Bill Neild. Neild’s brother, John, is on the Schlesinger board of directors. The union initiated the recall petitions because they said Neild was doing nothing to get labor and management to the bargaining table. Neild told the Beaumont Enterprise that the union activists “are creating ill will for their cause.” He told the Associated press that he would not act because the was considering decertifying the union. What the board did, in fact, was rule that there was enough evidence to file a complaint against the center charging it with unfair labor practices. NLRB director Louis Balvodine told the Enterprise that he considered the union work stoppage, which began July 1, “an unfair stoppage because of the center’s bargaining practices.” “If union members ask to unconditionally return to work,” Balvodine continued, “management must allow them to return or risk paying workers back wages for refusing to employ them if the workers win their case.” Schlesinger attorney Durkay told the paper he will not reopen negotiations. “Definitely,” he said, “the board is wrong.” ANDERSON & COMPANY1 COFFEE TEA SPICES TWO JEFFERSON lifolITARE AUSTIN, TEXAS 78731 512 453-1533 Send me your list. Name Street City Zip On September 1, one thousand people marched in a parade protesting the Schlesinger impasse. Because the union considers the battle as much a civil rights struggle as a labor struggle, key civil rights leaders were flown in for the march. They included Atlanta City Council member John Lewis, a founding member of the Student Nonviolent Joe Madison, the NAACP official in charge of voter registration.Also on hand were Richard Cordtz, secretarytreasurer of the SEIU and Harry Hubbard, president of the Texas AFL-CIO. During the march, the strikers announced they were going to return to Schlesinger on September 3 and demand their jobs back. At 7 a.m. on September 3, the strikers were met by the Schlesinger lawyer, who locked them out of the facility. John Durkay is not impressed by the national support for the union. “We aren’t going to roll over and play dead because the NAACP gets behind them or because they are a national union. We have dealt with that before in Beaumont and won.” “No matter how it ends, it won’t be clean,” said Hall. “We are facing a union-busting mentality. They attempt to compare these women to $18 an hour carpenters who took wage cutbacks. But we are dealing here with the most basic of problems getting a living wage for our members. If they can walk back in there with their heads up, then they’ve won, no matter what takes place at the bargaining table. If they walk back in there with their heads down, well then that’s another story.” 12 SEPTEMBER 13, 1985
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