Farmworkers Union Suing Commissioners, Claims ‘Welfare’ Violations

Teddye Stephan. Pioneer. Fort Stockton, TX. August 30, 1987

The International Union of Agricultural Workers (IUAW) has filed a lawsuit against the Pecos County judge and commissioners in their official capacities in 83rd District Court.

Pecos County Judge Charles Warnock said late Friday that he had not received a copy of the lawsuit, but he will reply as soon as possible.

Declaratory and injunctive relief is being sought “from the illegal and unconstitutional manner in which Pecos County provides and denies support assistance to poor migrant and seasonal farm workers,” according to the suit filed Aug. 21 by Stephen C. McIntyre, Texas Rural Legal Aid, Inc. lawyer from Hereford.

The suit notes that the IUAW and its director, Jesus Moya, are currently involved in several farm labor disputes in Pecos County concerning various alleged violations of federal and state law and that over the year the IUAW has “aggressively” represented the rights of migrant and seasonal farm workers in legal proceedings because many members and friends of the union fear they would be retaliated against by private or governmental entities if they individually assert their rights.

The document filed last week reviews disagreements between the IUAW and county officials beginning in July 1986 and includes the information that Pecos County Welfare Office clerk Alicia Nieto resigned from her job this year because of the “administration of the support program being without standards and procedures.”

While the suit notes that no action has been taken to adopt standards and procedures to govern the allocation of taxpayers’ money to the poor, it should be noted that a proposal to adopt such guidelines was presented to Pecos County Commissioners’ Court last Monday.

The suit claims the county, through its county judge and Commissioners’ Court, is responsible for managing, supervising and implementing all procedures and guidelines applicable to the eligibility, denial and appeal of applicants for support from the county.

Specifically, the suit notes, in part:

  • No written guidelines and standards used to evaluate applications for assistance.
  • No written notice of the decision made on an application.
  • No written notice of an applicant’s right to an appellate hearing.
  • No form provided for an appeal.
  • No provision of an impartial hearing officer or panel.
  • No notice of the applicant’s right to counsel.

The suit further alleges Pecos County does not annually determine and fund the amount of support assistance necessary to adequately meet the needs of the poor.

“The failure to distribute and deny support assistance to the poor according to written standards and procedures and to make an annual determination and funding of the needs of the poor violates the duty of Pecos County to care for the poor in a judicious and equitable manner…and constitutes a studied effort by the defendants to violate the legal and constitutional rights of the poor…” the lawsuit contends.

The union is asking, among other things, a declaratory judgment that the county judge and commissioners abused their discretion in an arbitrary and capricious manner; that a permanent injunction be issued prohibiting the denial of support assistance to poor migrant and seasonal farm workers without affording them adequate due process protections; that the union’s legal representatives be awarded costs and attorneys fees; that an order be handed down to conduct an annual review of the needs of the poor and to fund those needs; that a draft of procedures and standards be submitted to the union and the court for approval; and such other reasonable and necessary relief that will insure that support assistance will be adequately and timely distributed to poor farm workers by Pecos County.