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A JOURNAL OF FREE VOICES We will serve no group or pally but will hew hard to the truth as we find it and the right as we see it. We are dedicated to the whole truth, to human values above all interests, to the rights of human-kind as the foundation of democracy: we will take orders from none but our own conscience, and never will we overlook or misrepresent the truth to serve the interests of the powerful or cater to the ignoble in the human spirit. Writers are responsible for their own work, but not for anything they have not themselves written, and in publishing them we do not necessarily imply that we agree with them, because this is a journal of free voices. SINCE 1954 Publisher: Ronnie Dugger Editor: Louis Dubose Associate Editor: James Cullen Layout and Design: Diana Paciocco, Peter Szymczak Copy Editor: Roxanne Bogucka Editorial Interns: Carmen Garcia, Mary O’Grady. Contributing Writers: Bill Adler, Betty Brink, Warren Burnett. Brett Campbell, Jo Clifton, Terry FitzPatrick, Gregg Franzwa, James Harrington, Bill Helmer, Ellen Hosmer, Steven Kellman, Michael King, Deborah Lutterbeck, Tom McClellan, Bryce Milligan, Debbie Nathan, Gary Pomerantz, Lawrence Walsh. Editorial Advisory Board: David Anderson, Austin; Frances Barton, Austin; Elroy Bode, El Paso; Chandler Davidson, Houston; Dave Denison, Cambridge, Mass; Bob Eckhardt, Washington, D.C.; Sissy Farenthold, Houston; Ruperto Garcia, Austin; John Kenneth Galbraith, Cambridge, Mass.; Lawrence Goodwyn, Durham, N.C.; George Hendrick, Urbana, Ill.; Molly Ivins, Austin; Larry L. King, Washington, D.C.; Maury Maverick, Jr., San Antonio; Willie Morris, Oxford, Miss.; Kaye Northcott, Austin; James Presley, Texarkana; Susan Reid, Galveston; Fred Schmidt, Fredericksburg. Poetry Consultant: Thomas B. Whitbread Contributing Photographers: Bill Albrecht, Vic Hinterlang, Alan Pogue. Contributing Artists: Michael Alexander, Eric Avery, Tom Ballenger, Richard Bartholomew, Jeff Danziger, Beth Epstein, Dan Hubig, Pat Johnson, Kevin Kreneck, Michael Krone, Carlos Lowry, Ben Sargent, Dan Thibodeau, Gail Woods, Matt Wuerker. Managing Publisher: Cliff Olofson Subscription Manager: Stefan Wanstrom Executive Assistant: Gail Woods Special Projects Director: Bill Simmons Development Consultant: Frances Barton SUBSCRIPTIONS: One year S32, two years $59, three years $84. Full-time students $18 per year. Back issues $3 prepaid. Airmail, foreign, group, and bulk rates on request. Microfilm editions available from University Microfilms Intl., 300 N. Zeeb Road, Ann Arbor. MI 48106. Any current subscriber who finds the price a burden should say so at renewal lime; no one need forgo reading the Observer simply because of the cost. INDEXES: The Texas Observer is indexed in Access: The Supplementary Index to Periodicals: Texas Index and, for the years 1954 through 1981,The Texas Observer Index. copyrighted, 1992. is published biweekly except for a three-week interval 477-0746. Second-class postage paid at Austin, Texas. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to THE TEXAS OBSERVER, 307 West 7th Street, Austin, Texas 78701. Organ Grinding Bill Adler’s vituperative attacks on labor union publications, in particular the Texas AFL-C10 Labor News, might prove more helpful if he acknowledged the fundamental role of union publications, and the role of the Texas AFL-CIO in general. \(See “Working Papers,” TO 1/15/93 and “Adler replies,” Because I recently had the opportunity to speak with Adler in private, I will not comment on the personal attack he made on me except to say I now trust that matter is resolved. Still, I believe Adler in his writings has expressed certain criticisms of trade unionism that warrant further discussion in these pages. First, there is the role of union “house organ” publications; second, the role of the Texas AFL-CIO, the state labor federation. Generally, a “house organ” is a publication financed by and intended for members of a particular group. Most movements and organizations produce such publications \(newsletThe Texas AFL-CIO Labor News, of which I am editor, is such a “house organ” a monthly newsletter intended for circulation among state trade unionists. As such, its purpose is promote the interests of trade unionism in a political and economic environment hostile to union values. Putting aside Adler’s more pejorative characterizations of the Labor News, his principal criticism of it seems to consist of faulting the newsletter for not publishing a wider diver gence of views, dissenting opinions, and criticism of the labor movement and the Texas AFL-CIO itself. An easy reply is that the labor movement, subject as it is to hostile forces from every side, does not relish the prospect of self-cannibalization. We have all seen unhappy social activists who, having become hopelessly alienated from political and economic realities, resort to serving one another up for lunch. The taste is unpleasant. Still, there is a valid argument in support of a reasonable amount of dissent and self-criticism. A healthy amount guards against stagnation and drift; in proper doses, it stimulates change and provides direction. No doubt, the labor movement could use more of it. But that does not mean the Labor News is the necessary forum for dissent and self-criticism, or that such activity does not occur in another forum. This, I believe, goes to Adler’s real complaint. He is confessedly unhappy with the labor movement in general, citing labor’s recent political endorsements of Bill Clinton and Bob Krueger as just two examples of poor or, even worse, cynical decisionmaking. In this unhappy milieu, Adler perceives the Labor News as both part of the overall problem and part of a possible solution. The newsletter, he believes, could “light a fire under the federation” by devoting more space to dissent and self-criticism. That assertion belies present reality. It demands we take a look at the structure of the Texas AFL-CIO, its role in the trade union movement, and its function in relation to union members. Once that is done, perhaps Adler will understand that the monthly Labor News is more a mirror than a fire. The Texas AFL-CIO is an organization in which membership is voluntary. Union locals, central labor councils, and international unions who join pay per capita membership fees in order to support a statewide union voice for labor. As such, the state federation is akin to a service organization expected to be responsive to its members. Members of the Texas AFL-CIO elect its two principal officers, the president and secretary-treasurer, who in turn hire and administrate a staff to provide political campaign, legislative lobbying, educational, legal, community, and communications resources to the membership. Overseeing the officers and staff is the Executive Board, a body of 56 federation vice, presidents elected from union members across the state by those same members during a biennial general convention. This democratic body either makes or approves the major decisions regarding Texas AFL-CIO policies and positions. Members hold a second biennial convention, a political convention, to democratically vote and make political endorsements on elective public offices ranging from state governor to county sheriffs. During special elections, the costs of such a conven tion is prohibitive, so the Executive Board votes on the candidate endorsements instead. Anyone who has ever attended a Texas AFL-CIO general convention or political convention has seen the free and open expression of dissent. Executive Board meetings, too, often become intense forums where divergent opinions are expressed and heard. These discussions, often closed to the public, can become vigorous, energetic and frequently heated debates. Once the discussion on a matter is concluded, a vote is taken. The position which gains majority support \(which must be twoposition of the Texas AFL-CIO. If the position happens to be a political endorsement, then that endorsement becomes labor’s unitary endorsement; member unions are prohibited from supporting any other candidate for that political office. That’s the way the con Continued on pg. 12 DIALOGUE 2 FEBRUARY 26, 1993