UT Regents Discuss Union’s Charges: Migrant Workers Protest

Lorraine Cademartori. The Daily Texas. University of Texas at Austin. Friday, June 6, 1986. Vol. 85, No. 153

Members of the International Union of Agricultural and Industrial Workers, which filed a lawsuit against the UT system in March, went before the Board of Regents Thursday to discuss what they termed “terrible living and working conditions” at the System vineyards in West Texas.

IUAIW attorney Steve McIntyre said the lawsuit contained four main charges: unlawful surveillance and intimidation of workers, illegal spraying of pesticides by landowners while workers were still in the fields, poor sanitation facilities, and unlicensed drivers taking the workers into the fields every day, where McIntyre said they are unable to eat lunch in a shady area.

Jesus Moya, director and founder of the IUAIW, said members of the union prefer to negotiate but are willing to go to court if necessary.

“We’re always saying ‘Let’s sit down and negotiate this and they (System officials) say ‘Yeah, okay’ but they don’t really want to because that would mean they admit having some responsibility for what’s happening there,” Moya said.

W.O. Schultz, attorney for the UT System, told the regents the system could not be held responsible in the suit because it leases the vineyards to a wine producing consortium and has no power over its tenants.

If the negotiations between the three parties break down said Moya, the IUAIW will intensify its boycott of the St. Genevieve wine, which is produced at the vineyards, and stage a strike during the harvest season in early July.

Toward the conclusion of the meeting, the Black Student Alliance gave its presentation on minority recruitment and retention of both students and faculty.

Dale Robertson, chairman of the Steve Biko Committee, said when he first came to the University, he had adjustment problems, but instead of receiving encouragement from his advisors, he was counseled to “maybe go somewhere else.”

“Current programs do not support black cultural activity,” Robertson said. “That doesn’t do much for a person’s sense of identity at this campus, and neither does the University’s support of the apartheid in South Africa.”

UT President William Cunningham replied that while he agreed the University was still far from ideal for black students, the retention rate for blacks at the University was 76 percent, only seven percentage points less than that of whites.

He admitted that recruiting minority faculty, rather than students, was the biggest problem.

“We’ll solve the minority student problem here at the University before we solve the minority faculty one,” Cunningham said.

In addition to listening to discussions of farmworker and minority problems, the regents voted on several proposals. They voted to:

  • Approve the fiscal 1986-87 System budget of $2,007,724,384 and the $506,788,385 UT-Austin budget. This is a decrease of more than $90 million from last year’s budget.
  • Approve an agreement with American International Inc. that will establish the Institute for Immunological Disorders, a medical facility designed for research and treatment of immunological diseases, principally acquired immune deficiency syndrome.
  • Approve a multiyear Library Enhancement System, which will increase the number of books in System libraries, especially in graduate and doctoral subjects, and set up an automation system at the component institutions enabling students to look up books at other System libraries.
  • Approve more than $14 million in repairs for buildings on the UT-Austin campus, including the replacement of the asbestos ceiling at the Lyndon B. Johnson School Auditorium.
  • Approve the establishment of a master of arts degree in Asian studies at the University and submit the proposal to the system Coordinating Board for final approval.
  • Approve the proposed $10 million Dedman Merit Scholars Program in the College of Liberal Arts. Scholarships will be awarded to National Merit Scholars and outstanding liberal arts students.
  • Create 16 new endowed chairs in the UT School of Law.