The Benson Latin American Collection

Economy Furniture Company Strike Collection, 1968-1972

Descriptive Summary

Creator Economy Furniture Company Strike
Title Economy Furniture Company Strike Collection
Dates: 1968-1972
Abstract Legal papers, correspondence, minutes, agendas, printed materials, clippings, photographs, and memorabilia document the strike and other efforts of the Upholsterers' International Union (UIU) Local No. 456 to win collective bargaining rights at the Economy Furniture Company plant in Austin, Texas, from 1968-1972. The non-violent efforts of workers to win union recognition and a signed contract ended in 1971 after a two-and-a-half-year strike also known as the the "Austin Chicano Huelga."
OCLC Record No. 22760279
Extent 3 linear feet
Language English
Repository Benson Latin American Collection, The University of Texas at Austin

Historical Note

The non-violent efforts of the Upholsterers' International Union (UIU), Local No. 456 of Austin, Texas, to win union recognition and a signed contract with the Economy Furniture Company was realized in 1971, ending a two-and-a-half-year strike by company employees who voted overwhelmingly (252-83) in favor of the union. Workers at the Economy Furniture Company, ninety percent of whom were Mexican-American, sought union representation to improve working conditions, increase salaries, and secure arbitration in labor disputes. Following the union election, the company's owner, Milton Smith, filed objections to the election with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). He refused later that year to comply with the Board's ruling which certified the union as the collective bargaining agent of the employees. In protest of the company's refusal to recognize the union, 252 workers walked out on strike on November 27, 1968.

The ensuing strike, also known as the “Austin Chicano Huelga,” received a wide spectrum of support from local as well as national labor, religious, and Mexican-American groups. UIU's decision to conduct a state- and nation-wide boycott of Economy Furniture Company products drew support from the United Farmworkers Organizing Committee's Lettuce Boycott and its leader, César Chávez. Chávez had first introduced a national boycott as a tool to secure collective bargaining rights for farmworkers in California. In support of the striking employees and their boycott, Chávez came to Austin on February 6-7, 1971, bringing together more than 5,000 persons at a march and rally at the state capitol.

Pickets were finally withdrawn after twenty-eight months following a U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals decision in January, 1971. The court declared the strike an “unfair labor practice strike,” and it enforced an NLRB ruling that Economy Furniture Company must negotiate with the union and reinstate the striking workers. Negotiations between the two parties were started, and a contract was approved on September 7, 1971. The contract agreement provided wage increases each year, an additional paid holiday, improved vacation, seniority, and arbitration.

Scope and Contents Note

The legal papers of the attorneys for the UIU Local No. 456 include affidavits and questionnaires of striking workers (1970-1971), correspondence between Economy Furniture Company and UIU Local No. 456 attorneys and the National Labor Relations Board, law notes and memos, court actions, rulings of the NLRB and the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, and papers relating to the final negotiations and settlement of the strike.

The strike materials relating to the labor activities of the UIU Local No. 456 and its leaders include letters, brochures, and newsclippings belonging to strike and boycott leaders Victor and Jim Ruiz. In addition, a collection of newsclippings and issues of Texas and Austin community newspapers from 1967 to 1971, such as the Voice of the East, La Fuerza, the Lone Star Dispatch, El Papel Chicano(Houston), the Austin American Statesman, and the UIU Journal (the national organ of the Upholsterers' Union) are included. The collection covers both strike and Chicano related articles and news items.

Boycott materials include agendas and minutes, budgets, circular letters, strategy notes, and a Local No. 456 organizational chart with a statewide personal contact list. Internal publications include a report of César Chávez's visit to Austin in 1971, press releases, articles from 1969 to 1971, UIU newsletters and brochures, handbills, and leaflets relating to strike and boycott activities.

A collection of 165 black and white and color photographs document picket lines, marches, rallies, and local and national union leaders. Audiocassette tapes include a speech given by César Chávez in Austin in 1971, and speeches made by union members, supporters, state legislative representatives, and labor and civic leaders at a local 456 meeting at Montopolis Center in Austin.

A strike banner and sign comprise the memorabilia.

Union correspondence consists of outgoing state and national mail (1970-1971) belonging to Lencho Hernández, strike leader and boycott coordinator; outgoing mail (1970-1971) belonging to Janet Newton, publicity coordinator; correspondence related to César Chávez (1970 and 1971), Samuel Houston Clinton and Dave R. Richards, attorneys for the UIU Local No. 456 (February-May 1971), and other srike correspondence.

The external publications include various labor and Chicano/Hispanic newsclippings and printed materials, press releases, leaflets, and miscellaneous publications related to civil rights and community organization.



The Economy Furniture Company strike collection is organized in five series: Legal records from Sam Houston Clinton and Dave R. Richards, Attorneys for the Upholsterers' International Union Local No. 456; Miscellaneous briefs and papers relating to court proceedings and settlement of strike; Strike and boycott materials; Union correspondence, 1968-1971; and External publications.


Access Restrictions


Use Restrictions

Standard copyright restrictions apply.

Index Terms

Subjects (Persons)
Chávez, César, 1927-
Subjects (Organizations)
Upholsterers' International Union of North America, Local No. 456
Economy Furniture Company
Mexican Americans--Texas--Austin
Strikes and lockouts--Furniture industry--Texas--Austin
Labor disputes--Texas--Austin
Economy Furniture Company Strike, Austin, Texas, 1968-1971
Other Authors
Clinton, Sam Houston
Hernandez, Lencho
Loeffler, James J.
Richards, David R.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Cite as: Economy Furniture Company Strike Collection, 1968-1972, Benson Latin American Collection, University of Texas Libraries, the University of Texas at Austin.

Box and Folder Inventory


Series 1: Legal records from Sam Houston Clinton and Dave R. Richards, Attorneys for the Upholsterers' International Union Local No. 456.

box folder
1 1 Upholsterers' International Union vs. Economy Furniture Co. (NLRB-RC)
2 Upholsterers' International Union vs. Economy Furniture Co., Labor Injunctions opened Jan. 3, 1969.
3 Letters inviting speakers to attend Nov. 29, 1970, rally in Austin, TX; letter to the Federal Communications Commission concerning complaint.
4 James J. Loeffler, Attorney for Economy Furniture Co., correspondence, and Economy Furniture Co. strike materials. Apr.-Oct. 1971
5 National Labor Relations Board correspondence between attorneys for Economy Furniture Co. and UIU Local No. 456, 1971; law notes and memos; NLRB rulings, 1969.
6 Affidavits and questionnaires of Economy Furniture Co. concerning union contract negotiations and reinstatement of strikers.
7 Information furnished by Economy Furniture Co. strikers, 1970-1971.
8 National Labor Relations Board, 1971-Case No. 23-CA-3961.
9 Attorney Loeffler's Exceptions-Case No. 23-RC-3102.
box folder
2 1 Economy Furniture Co. strike settlement materials, 1969, 1971.
2 UIU and Economy Furniture Co. negotiations, 1971-1972.


Series 2: Miscellaneous briefs and papers relating to court proceedings and settlement of strike.

box folder
2 3 Miscellaneous briefs relating to court proceedings of the Economy Furniture Co. strike, 1969-1971.
4 Agreement between Economy Furniture Co. and UIU Local No. 456 effective Sept. 22, 1971.
5 Job classification and wage rates to prevail in agreement.
6 Transcript of testimony given on Jan. 9-10, 1969, in Hearing on Plaintiff's Application for Temporary Injunction.


Series 3: Strike and boycott materials

box folder
3 1 Strike materials from Victor Ruiz.
2 Strike materials from Victor Ruiz, 1969-1971.
3 Strike materials from Jim Ruiz.
4 Petitions signed in support of strike from Houston, TX, and Delano, CA. (Includes signature of César Chávez.)
5 Picket schedules.
6 Strikers' recap sheets.
7 Rosters and signatures from meetings.
8 Contributions to Economy Furniture Co. Strike Fund.
9 Checks issued to strikers from Strike Aid Fund, 1969 and 1971.
10 Lists of strikers who returned to work.
11 Miscellaneous strike materials.
12 Newsclippings of Economy Furniture Co. strike.
13 Strikers' Information forms.
14 Summary of Proceedings including Report of the Officers to the 36th Convention of UIU of North America, AFL-CIO, June 18-25, 1970, Los Angeles, California.
box folder
4 1 Boycott Advisory Board: recommendations for the creation of the Board; agenda and minutes, 1971.
2 Strike and Boycott 12-month operational budget with attachments.
3 Local No. 456 organizational chart with statewide personal contact list; strategy notes; and boycott letter.
4 Shipping information for boycott and Economy Furniture Company shipping slips.
5 Press releases and articles, 1969-1971.
6 Newsletter and brochures published by UIU Local No. 456.
7 Handbills, brochures, leaflets on UIU Local No. 456 strike and boycott.
8 César Chávez: a report on his visit to Austin, Texas, February 5-6, 1971; copy of Travis County Commissioner's Court Proclamation of “César Chávez Day.”
5 Photographs
6 Audiocassettes
Audiocassette No.1: (3 copies; one is unplayable)
Audiocassette No.2: (2 copies)


Series 4: Union correspondence, 1968-1971

box folder
7 1 Letter to James J. Johns, UIU Representative from Father Briganti, director, Diocese of Austin, TX, May 15, 1968.
2 Lencho Hernández, outgoing state and national correspondence, Feb., Sept.-Dec. 1970.
3 Lencho Hernández, outgoing state and national correspondence, Jan. 1971.
4 Lencho Hernández, outgoing state and national correspondence, Feb.-June 1971.
5 Janet Newton, outgoing correspondence, 1970-1971.
6 Correspondence related to César Chávez, 1970-1971.
7 Clinton and Richards correspondence, Feb.-May 1971.
8 Miscellaneous correspondence, 1970-1971.


Series 5: External publications

box folder
8 1 Labor-related newsclippings, press releases, leaflets, and papers.
2 Chicano/Hispanic-related newsclippings and papers.
3 Miscellaneous publications related to civil rights and community organization.
4 Miscellaneous.