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Houston Breakthrough, April 1979
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Houston Breakthrough, April 1979 - Page 5. April 1979. Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries. University of Houston Digital Library. Web. February 26, 2020. https://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/feminist/item/1324/show/1301.

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

(April 1979). Houston Breakthrough, April 1979 - Page 5. Houston and Texas Feminist and Lesbian Newsletters. Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries. Retrieved from https://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/feminist/item/1324/show/1301

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

Houston Breakthrough, April 1979 - Page 5, April 1979, Houston and Texas Feminist and Lesbian Newsletters, Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries, accessed February 26, 2020, https://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/feminist/item/1324/show/1301.

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

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Title Houston Breakthrough, April 1979
Publisher Breakthrough Publishing Co.
Date April 1979
Subject.Topical (LCSH)
  • Women
  • Periodicals
  • Feminism--United States--Periodicals
  • Newsletters
Subject.Geographic (TGN)
  • Houston, Texas
Genre (AAT)
  • periodicals
Language English
Type (DCMI)
  • Text
  • Image
Original Item Location HQ1101 .B74
Original Item URL http://library.uh.edu/record=b2332724~S11
Digital Collection Houston and Texas Feminist and Lesbian Newsletters
Digital Collection URL http://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/feminist
Repository Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries
Repository URL http://info.lib.uh.edu/about/campus-libraries-collections/special-collections
Use and Reproduction Educational use only, no other permissions given. Copyright to this resource is held by the content creator, author, artist or other entity, and is provided here for educational purposes only. It may not be reproduced or distributed in any format without written permission of the copyright owner. For more information please see UH Digital Library Fair Use policy on the UH Digital Library About page.
File Name index.cpd
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Title Page 5
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File Name femin_201109_549ae.jpg
Transcript COMMENTARIES by Nikki van hiqhiowER Bill Narum Norma Rae Lives in Brazosport I had the pleasure of seeing the movie Norma Rae the other night. Set in a mill town in the South, it told the story of one woman's struggle to improve primitive and unsafe working conditions by unionizing a cotton mill. I left the movie feeling inspired. Just a few days later I encountered what appears to be a similar situation right on the perimeters of Houston, in Brazosport, Texas. I addressed a women's conference at Brazosport College. A woman stopped me as I was about to leave. She said she had heard of me through the Houston papers and hoped that I could help. The story she told me was of an all-woman cleaning crew at Dow Chemical Plant "B". The cleaning crew did not work directly for Dow, but rather for a firm called U. S. Contractors which held a janitorial service contract with Dow. The women didn't pay much attention to that arrangement at first, but they soon learned that they were doing the same work at half the wages of regular Dow janitors. The all-male Dow crew made $7.86 per hour, and the all-woman crew received $3.80 to $4.25 per hour. The women had no benefits. Dow employees got paid holidays but the Plant "B" cleaning crew got none. Sally Carlsen, a spokeswoman for the crew, reported that some of them were required to work in extremely hazardous areas without proper safety equipment. When conditions became intolerable they decided to try to talk to their employer to see if they could get improvements in their working conditions. They formed a club named "Workers for Better Conditions" and circulated a petition asking for an improvement in working conditions. They soon learned that the Dow contractor did not look kindly on such activities. Harassment and intimidation started. Those who were involved in getting the petition circulated were either fired or forced to quit. When the cleaning crew realized what was happening to members of their organization, they sought the help of the Operating Engineers, Local 564. Through the efforts of the Local 564, charges were filed with the National Labor Relations Board and those employees who had been fired or forced to quit got their jobs back. On February 12, 1979, the cleaning crew, who had voted to be represented by Local 564, got U. S. Contractors to meet with them to discuss their working conditions, but as it turned out there was to be no negotiation over the problems. After the vote to unionize, Dow had cancelled its contract with U. S. Contractors. On March 16, 1979, all members of the cleaning crew at Plant "B" were discharged. Dow has now contracted with another non-union firm which pays even lower hourly wages. The questions the cleaning crew are asking themselves these days are, do they not have the right to talk to employers about improving conditions? Should the penalty for questioning be the loss of their jobs? Are benefits such as paid holidays, vacations or safer working con ditions such outrageous requests? The question I would like to ask is how much of their treatment was related to the fact that they were all women, most of them minorities, many single heads of household. Some of these women had been working on the cleaning crew for five years. Obviously their work must have been satisfactory. However, as soon as they made any demands for better conditions and unionized, the contract for their services was cancelled. The recipient of the new contract refused to hire any of them. The former cleaning crew has been unable to get any of the Brazosport media to cover their plight. That's life in a company town. If you would like to offer your help to the former cleaning crew at Plant "B" you can call Sally Carl- sen at 297-1375 or Bobbie Smith at 233-5283 in Brazosport. They could really use your support. AFDC: A Decade Behind The term welfare, it seems, has become virtually synonymous with fraud. The media, and therefore the public, have gotten so caught up in a few cases of welfare rip-off artists, that we sometimes forget all the others-the poor and the needy, and the helpless—for whom welfare is the survival link. A report on welfare published by the League of Women Voters reveals that in 1975, 12 percent of the nation's population had incomes below the "official" poverty line, set at $5,500 for an urban family of four. The poor are mainly blacks, the elderly, families headed by women and persons of Spanish origin. While one out of every 11 whites lives in poverty, one out of every three blacks and one out of every four persons of Spanish origin live in poverty. Poverty is increasingly becoming a problem of women and children. In 1975 nearly half of all poor families were headed by women. While only six percent of households headed by men lived below the poverty level, nearly one- third of families headed by women had incomes below the poverty line. It is a cruel myth that the poor are simply those who will not work. The League of Women Voters reports that half the heads of poor families did work in 1974-and almost half of those worked year round. But even if there were jobs available for everyone, which there are not, there are those who cannot be expected to work. These include the elderly, the chronically ill and disabled, those who care for young children and the children themselves. I have often heard the statement that poor women have children just to collect more welfare money. This is highly unlikely considering the support system here in Texas. The average payment per child is $32.58 per month to cover food, housing, utilities, personal care, clothing and transportation. Those payments have not been raised since 1969. Anyone with children will know how inadequate this sum is for providing a decent standard of living. The fraud rate is extremely low in Texas. It ranks tenth out of ten largest states administering the Aid to Families with Dependent Children program. On the other hand, Texas ranks 47th out of 50 states in the level of grant payments to children. Representatives of ten church, civic, social welfare, business and labor groups recently testified before the Texas Senate Finance Committee and the Texas House Human Services Committee to recommend increasing the level of support for dependent children. Members of the community should let their feelings on this matter be known to their state senators and representatives. After all, children are the products of our entire society and we will all pay the price for neglect. Alimony is For People I applaud the recent Supreme Court decision making it unconstitutional for a state to allow women but not men to get alimony in divorce cases. The decision struck down an Alabama law restricting alimony to wives. The decision had the predictable response from anti-division women's rights spokespersons. They viewed the decision as an assault on the division of responsibilities between men and women —women are dependents and men are providers. The Supreme Court acknowledged the reality of the times. Women are often providers. Men are sometimes dependent. More often, women and men are providers and women and men depend upon each other for support. The Supreme Court decision regarding alimony seems so fair, so decent, so obvious. The decision does not even mean that William H. Orr of Santa Clara, California, the husband who brought the case, will receive alimony or, on the other hand, will not be required to pay alimony. The case merely goes back to the Alabama Courts for reconsideration in light of the Supreme Court's ruling on the Alabama law. Once again the court did not expand its decision prohibiting sex discrimination beyond the case at hand. This means that other laws allowing different treatment for males and females will still have to be challenged on a case-by- case basis. It is a long, tedious, and expensive affair fighting these in the legal trenches. Although the decision in this case will probably be used as ammunition against the Equal Rights Amendment, it should really be used as evidence of the need for the federal amendment. Without it, impetus to remove discriminatory laws from the books will depend upon determined individuals who are willing to endure the long and expensive process. This case should help wake men up to the fact that they have considerable investment in the movement for equal rights. Equal rights under the law is for people, not just women or just men. Have We Got a Deal for You! "Have We Got A Deal For You!" is the title of the lead story in a recent issue of the Texas Observer (March 16). The reference is to the efforts of some business lobbyists to gut Texas' 1973 Consumer Protection Act. Texas has been a pioneer in the area of consumer protection. This might seem hard to believe given the iron-fisted grip of corporate control on the Texas legislature, but it is true. Through some quirk of political fate, the 63rd legislature approved a bill giving consumers considerable power to protect themselves. The beauty of the present consumer law is that it doesn't depend on public regulators, but rather builds into the private sector a self-regulating mechanism that gives consumers incentive to defend themselves. For the trouble of going out and hiring a lawyer and filing suit, a consumer can collect triple damages for a business's unlawful activity. As a backup measure in the law, the state attorney general's office can seek civil penalities against firms engaged in "widespread, massive abuses." Does this sound too good to be true for consumers? Apparently a coalition of business lobbyists (made up of six former legislators now representing the Texas Association of Business) think so. They have plans to bring the consumer back down to their idea of appropriate size. The Observer reports that the gist of the plans includes the deletion of the "breach of express or implied warranty" section. Noncompliance with the terms of warranties constitutes about 75 percent of all consumer actions. Second, recoverable damages would be limited to actual rather than triple damages. The allowance for triple damages makes for the self-regulating nature of the law. "It costs to cheat!" The proposed changes also include a limit on the actionable causes for which a consumer could bring charges. Further, abuses by landlords, debt collectors, door-to-door solicitors, and mobile home sellers would be exempted from prosecution. The above list does not fully cover all the mutations in store for the Consumer Protection Act, but I'm sure you get the idea. You probably have already guessed that this is not strictly an outside job. Working closely and cooperatively with our former public servants, the lobbyists, are the insiders-Senator Bill Meier and Representative Danny Hill. According to the Observer, nine of the 11 House sponsors of the gutting amendments received campaign contributions from the major interests behind the bill. As they put it, Senator Bill Meier's campaign contribution list for 1978 reads like a who's who of the lobbies pushing for the bill. There is still some hope for salvaging the Consumer Protection Act from its voracious predators. Consumers and responsible businesspeople should immediately let their state legislators know where they stand on this matter. Ignorance and apathy are, as usual, on the side of the special interest lobbyists, but just a little public attention on their treacherous bill might be enough to turn the tide. Dr. Nikki Van Hightower is president of the Houston Area Women's Center and a former radio commentator. HOUSTON BREAKTHROUGH APRIL 1979