Texas State Employees Union/Communications Workers of America Records, Local 6186:
The Texas State Employees Union/Communications Workers of America, Local 6186 has two full-time lobbyists in Austin working to influence legislators to vote in such a way that the union's goals and initiatives will be favorably affected. The union and the lobbyists also receive backing from the Texas AFL-CIO. In 1992, membership in the state of Texas among approximately 180,000 state employees was 6,618, up from the 1987 membership of 4,000.
Perennial issues with TSEU are maintaining staffing levels, promoting salary increases, keeping members' health insurance costs low, and promoting personal rights such as privacy, protection from liability, and payment for overtime. In November of 1987, the union was successful in its suit claiming unfair invasion of privacy against the Mental Health Mental Retardation Agency. MHMR was requiring employees to take polygraph tests, and the court agreed that this was not appropriate for that agency, banning MHMR's use of lie detector tests as a requirement for employment or to retain employment. TSEU was also successful in the legislature in 1987, with several important victories.
Lawmakers agreed with the union's position when they cut back on privatizing state projects by contracting outside instead of using state employees. Legislators also decided not to close the Austin State Hospital, after strong appeals from union leaders. The state increased its participation in employees' health insurance costs and raised salaries 2% across the board while agreeing to study clerical job descriptions and classifications. The 1987 achievements added up to the single most successful year for the period covered by this collection.
Jobs With Justice, a nationwide coalition of labor unions, churches, civil rights and women's organizations, community groups, elected officials and other citizens, targeted Stephen F. Austin University for a demonstration in November 1987 because of the university's treatment of food service workers. The administration contracted with a food service company, who hired all the people who had worked for the state before the contract was let. At that time, the company informed the workers that they no longer had the rights of state workers to organize, but when the union began a private organization, the company told the workers they were not private employees either. Inflamed union leaders and Jobs With Justice leadership agreed to demonstrate, and buoyed by the successful year in Texas, members flocked to Nacogdoches from all over the state. Over 2,000 demonstrators protested both the actions of the university administration and the food service company.
The North Texas membership showed its strongest support in April 1989 when they took two busloads of demonstrators to Austin on Lobby Day. They went specifically to lobby the legislature for pay raises, cutting contracts for state jobs, and ensuring fair grievance procedures. Union members claimed victory when lawmakers voted for a 5 percent pay raise and only $10 per month increase in health insurance premiums instead of the $163 increase that was forecast. The legislators also approved hiring of 1,820 new workers during fiscal year 1990. "Two years ago, when we had 600 members in DHS [Department of Human Services], the legislature gave us 400 new workers. Now that we have recruited over 1,000 members, they turn around and give us 1,800 for the first year," commented activist Gail Hortick of San Antonio DHS.
A historical record that is void of historical self-awareness is created by daily operations. This record is different from the one that would be made if the organization focused on documenting its history throughout its life. The TSEU allowed its operations to write its history instead of "creating an image" in its paper. The result is this collection of records, the innocent story told by day-to-day existence.
The records are organized in two series, the first being the Administration files, which are the union's inward manifestation, the way the union perceives itself. The correspondence, 1982-1989, is mostly between members, concerning recruitment. The official actions of the executive committee and their efforts at election show the inner political dynamics of the TSEU. There are forms used for membership applications, surveying members for insurance information, and other operations forms. The news clipping file contains photocopies of relevant news articles detailing issues of the union and its members, but the clippings cover only the last two years of the period covered by the entire collection. Finally, the manuals used for organizing, training, and maintaining the union show the procedures to be followed by union membership. The second series is Publications, representing the union's outward manifestation, the way the union wants to be perceived by others. The brochures are designed to motivate and encourage members while attracting new members to the organization. The newsletters document goals and political action by the union.
Duplicates of publications were discarded, but all other records are included in the collection. The materials in each folder were rearranged in chronological order where possible, and the folders within each series are in alphabetical order, as named by the processing archivist.
The Texas State Employees Union/Communications Workers of America, Local 6186, Records may reflect an intriguing dichotomy compared to a similar union in a state with no right-to-work laws. There is no massive movement or overpowering union action because of the apathy of prospective members and probable weariness of long-time members. TSEU is a study in tenacity, refusing to be defeated by being ignored or criticized. The TSEU may not be a major piece of union life in America, but it is an interesting nugget of dedication to the tenets of organized workers.
Open for research.
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Texas State Employees Union/Communications Workers of America Records, Local 6186, AR396, Box Number, Folder Number, Special Collections, The University of Texas at Arlington Library.
Accessioned as number 92-45.