US: Texas: Television Strike

We discussed the impact of strikes on the selection of a site for the 2012 Olympic Games. Mike Bonnie brings up  case in Texas: I recall when Lady Bird sold her investment in the cable television company operating in Houston to what was Time, Inc. The employees saw it as a opportunity to better their lot in life by going on strike. Rather than pay the employees what they felt they were worth, Time, Inc. flew managers and technicians in from all over the country to run the system and break the back of the union. I'll bet there's still an interesting cross-ownership story behind Time/Warner's media holdings in Texas. The latest FCC
Biennial Regulatory Review of Ownership Rules for Broadcasters is considering loosening the rules again.

Here's a brief (draft) history of the consolidation of cable services, including Houston Holdings, Paragon and Time/Warner:'paragon%20cable%20houston Following the mega-merger of Verizon and MCI last week, I wonder from reading the web page what Verizon's interests are? 

RH: Strikes and strike breaking around the world are a legitimate WAIS subject. While the right to strike is viewed as an essential part of democracy, I view strikes as a breakdown in the socio-economic system.

Randy Black brings up an important point about unionization: Going on strike in Texas is always a hit or miss affair. Texas remains a right-to-work state, in that you cannot be required by law to join an organized labor union in order to go to work as you may be in many states of the North. In many northern states, one must join a union in order to work in many industries, just to go to work, which I’ve always felt was pretty unfair.
Fortunately, such is not the case in Texas, although every decade or so the local unions make a run at repealing section 14b of the Taft-Hartley Act that gives one the right to work without joining a union. Texas has a long history of good labor relations with unions, while maintaining the right to work without being forced to join a union. A case in point is a Dallas skyline landmark, Reunion Hotel and Tower which was built and completed ahead of schedule in the 1970s, using a labor force that was 100 percent unionized, but whose workers were offered various cash incentives to complete the huge project ahead of schedule. I recall that for every two days ahead of schedule a portion of the project was completed, the workers were paid a day’s bonus. In short, if the contract for the framing was to be over 180 days, but was completed in 160, the steel workers received a 10-day bonus in pay. Everyone benefited as a result.
Such is the case on a current project, a near-billion dollar highway interchange in north Dallas. The five-year project is nearly a year ahead of schedule using similar incentives and union labor.
Sidebar: The highway interchange I mention above is not without its controversy. In the bridge support designs of the interchange, on the concrete superstructure, the architects allowed for a Texas star to be cast into the surface of the bridge’s support columns as a design element. The two feet high stars, about 50 of them, are painted dark red against a tan coat of paint on the bridge supports. Last week, a Chinese immigrant sued to have the state remove the red stars, as a cost of millions, on the pretext that he has to drive through this interchange daily on his way to work, and the red stars remind him too much of the repressive communist country that he escaped and which he still has nightmares about. Oh, pleeeeze…..

RH: The union problem was one reason why US industries in the North moved South and since have moved abroad, starting with Mexico.  The ILO must be keeping track of all this.

At 05:51 PM 2/28/2005, you wrote:

Let us now praise famous men, or rather Texan women. After informing us about Ima Hogg,  Randy Black explains how bird became Bird: On the matter of Lady Bird Johnson, her claim to fame in Texas had mainly to do with ‘highway beautification’ and was pretty much limited to her public efforts to force the State to plant trees and attractive landscaping along the Texas highways and interchanges and later along the nation’s highways courtesy of the Highway Beautification Act, for which all Americans are grateful. She also led an effort to beautify Washington, DC. For more on her efforts:
The ‘bird’ in Lady Bird’s name has nothing to do with her love for birds. It was a childhood nickname given by the family’s black maid (her family owned an east Texas plantation since the 1840s) who said that the young girl was “cute as a little bird.” Lady Bird hated the name but put up with it. She grew up wealthy, but lonely in east Texas (her mom died with she was five), and liked to swim with the alligators in Caddo Lake near the Texas-Louisiana border. Lady Bird attended Episcopal private schools in Dallas and eventually earned a degree in journalism from UT-Austin. Among LBJ’s legacy are the Civil Rights Bill of 1964 and 1965, legislation creating the War on Poverty, Medicare, Medicaid, the National Endowment for the Arts, The National Endowment for the Humanities. Lady Bird supported all those efforts, and became the honorary chairman of Project Headstart, one of the War on Poverty's most important programs.

She established the National Wildflower Research Center in Austin. Two years later, its name was changed to "The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Research Center."
For more:
RH: She is the second woman I have heard of who liked to swim with alligators.  It must have been good preparation for marrying LBJ.

Ronald Hilton 2005


last updated: April 12, 2005