SGRC Lawsuit Dropped By Union

Fort Stockton Pioneer. May 17, 1987

A lawsuit filed last summer against SGRC, Inc., the management corporation that contracted with University of Texas Systems (UT) to manage and market the wine produced at St. Genevieve Winery & Vineyard, has been dropped.

It had been alleged that SGRC, Inc. violated the Open Records Act by refusing to provide records to the International Union of Agricultural and Industrial Workers (IUAIW), concerning the use of pesticides and other chemicals near and on farm workers.

Information regarding pesticide and chemical usage at the vineyard was outlined during a two-day hearing conducted by the Texas Dept. of Agriculture in Fort Stockton last September, concerning the possible revocation of the license of an aerial applicator (crop duster) for allegedly spraying about 50 farm workers at the vineyard.

Stephen C. McIntyre, Texas Rural Legal Aid, Inc. attorney, said the lawsuit was dropped in December for several reasons.

“First,” McIntyre said, “we were able to obtain a substantial amount of information from other sources so that we could make a fair determination of the chemicals used by SGRC, Inc.

“Second,” he continued, “about three weeks after the TDA hearing UT cancelled its contract with SGRC, Inc., and at that point it was no longer crucial to establish the legal precedent that private corporations in business with the state must also comply with the Open Records Act, at least to the extent that farm workers and their unions have a right to obtain information about the chemicals they are being exposed to each day.”

McIntyre also added that a few months after the local suit was filed a related lawsuit was filed in Travis County by the United Farm Workers of America, AFL-CIO. The lawsuit sought to change the Texas Hazard Communication Act so that all farm workers, no matter who they work for, would automatically be provided chemical exposure information.

“It seemed to me that the broader attack of the problem, the developments in our case and the need to take care of other pressing legal matters all pointed toward the dismissal of the lawsuit,” the attorney concluded. “For all those reasons we decided to drop our case, sent the United Farm Workers a copy of our lawsuit and wished them good luck.”

According to a new study by the National Cancer Institute and the University of Kansas, farmers and workers exposed to herbicides face a much higher risk of lymphatic cancer than others.

The study reportedly was based on an examination of health histories of farmers in Kansas. It showed that if farmers were exposed to herbicides 20 days a year or more they were 600 percent more likely to contract lymphatic cancer than people who did not work with such chemicals, according to a senior staff scientist at the cancer Institute, who is the chief author of the report.