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FEATURE / De-Commis ‘ sioning Labor BY MARK MURRAY dated by the 1995 Legislature is to oversee the states job-training and employment-related education programs, with eye-glazing, alphabet-soup names like Work OpportunityTax Credit \(WOTO the DV013 the Senior Texans JTPAA and the Job Opportunities and 13 ut behind the Commission’s brief history is an intriguing tale of broken promises, laid-off workers, and class conflict. The players include surprising walk-ons like Attila the Hun, and even Pinocchio. But the central role has been played by David R. Perdue, officially designated as the TWC’s “Commissioner Representing Labor.” The story is about to reach its climax: Perdue’s pending con firmation battle in the Texas Senate, where his victory is increasingly unlikely. In fact, it appears that the Senate Nominations Committee will not even consider the confirmationmeaning that Governor Bush will have to find himself a new labor commissioner. The tale began two years ago. During the 1995 Legislature, lawcreated in its place the Texas Workforce Commission, which was to be headed by three commissioners, representing business, the public, and labor. Lawmakers also transferred the job-training and employment-related education programs that belonged to the TEC, the Texas Department of Commerce, and the Texas Department of Human Services, to the new Workforce Commission. As the bill creating the TWC was under discussion, Texas AFLCIO President Joe Gunn met with interested parties, including Senator Rodney Ellis of Houston, Representative Rene Oliveira of Brownsville, and staffers from the offices of Governor Bush and Lieutenant Governor Bob Bullock. Gunn says Dan Shelley, then a member of Bush’s staff, promised that Jackie St. Clairthen labor commissioner for the Texas Employment Commission and a former Texas AFL-CIO secretary-treasurerwould be reappointed by the governor to be the TWC’s commissioner representing labor. Gunn had serious reservations about the TWC’s creation, but when promised that St. Clair would sit on the Cornmission, he pledged to support the new agency. By the following August it became apparent that Bush had decided not to appoint St. Clair, which infuriated Gunn and the AFLCIO. “There’s no question that Shelley made the commitment,” Gunn says, “and there’s no question that the governor didn’t back the commitment.” Gunn’s office began distributing caricatures of the governor as Pinocchiothe fictional puppet whose nose grew every time he told a lie. Bush claimed that the promise of appointing St. Clair was never made, telling the Austin American-Statesman, “It’s against the law to make appointment promises in the State of Texas. I would never do that.” But Representative Oliveira confirms Gunn’s version of the Shelley meeting. “There was a clear understanding that Mr. St. Clair would be reappointed,” said Oliveira. “We understood that that had Governor Bush’s blessing at the time.” THE ANTI-UNION LABOR COMMISSIONER The labor organization became even more incensed when the governor’s own nominee was announced. At first, it might be hard to understand why the labor organization opposed David Perdue. For thirty-two years, he had toiled at the General Motors plant in Arlinglocal’s newsletter, and eventually rose to vice president and president. Yet prior to his appointment, Perdue curried favor with the governor by promising bluntly that it was his goal to undermine organized labor. In a November 1994 letter to Bush asking to join his administrative team as an adviser on labor affairs, Perdue happily expressed his anti-union beliefs. He wrote, “I’m sure your concern in appointing me to such a position could be questioned by asking: `Would he be too sympathetic to the labor cause?’ To that, I must honestly answer, ‘No.’ My goal for the last 21 years of working as a union official has not been for the proliferation of organized labor, but for creating a relationship in the workplace that would eliminate the need for unions.” In his letter, Perdue might be described most charitably as a desperate job-seeker hoping for preferment; Gunn read it more bluntly: as an attempt to stab organized labor in the back. “The letter states that he sold out labor,” said Gunn. “There isn’t any question in my mind.” If any further evidence of Perdue’s anti-union intentions were necessary, it came in the form of a letter of recommendation for Perdue by Tom Vandergriff, Tarrant County’s Republican county judge. “I have never known anyone in labor,” wrote Vandergriff to Bush’s director of appointments, “who has a better appreciation of management’s requirements than Mr. Perdue.” Perdue, who declined to be interviewed for this article, has claimed that the Texas AFL-CIO attacked his appointment because he belonged to the UAW \(which at the time wasn’t affiliated with former member. On November 6, 1995, Buddy Stewart, then president of Local 276, wrote a scathing letter to his union brother Per 18 THE TEXAS OBSERVER MAY 23, 1997