Justice bus rolls through Houston

HOUSTON – The Harris County AFL-CIO Sixth Annual Justice Bus visited seven employers here on June 8. The purpose was to cite them for their good or bad treatment of workers and whether they allowed employees to form unions and bargain. About 50 activists and reporters participated in spite of stormy weather, flooding, and torrential rain. The Justice Bus presented “No Justice Here” awards to errant employers and “Justice Here” awards to employers who respect workers and their unions.

The first stop was the Harris County Civil Justice Center in downtown Houston where they visited a contractor company, Design Electric, and asked them to recognize the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers on the basis of “card check.” One worker noted the irony of awarding a contract to construct a “justice center” to an outfit that refuses to treat workers justly. It has been alleged that Design Electric has not been paying the prevailing wage to workers and is currently under investigation by Harris County. Design Electric received a “No Justice Here” award.

Another stop was at Markman Brothers Investments, where another “No Justice Here” award was presented. Markman Brothers Investments has been cited by the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) for “selling” homes to unsuspecting buyers through a “contract for deed” agreement. These agreements are written so that low-income buyers are unable to fulfill their contracts and eventually are forced out without achieving home ownership. These buyers are oftentimes Spanish-speaking immigrants unable to read contracts written in English. The houses are then sold to new victims in a never-ending cycle.

Two employers received “Justice Here” awards for their recognition of workers and their rights to form unions. These included Shell-Deer Park Chemical Plant and Shell Refinery, and Hilton Americas Hotel. These employers demonstrated the desire to work together with unions to solve problems, and respect workers’ choices, according to the Justice Bus organizers.

The bus was an excellent example of cross-union solidarity, with a number of unions and organizations participating, including IBEW, Sheet Metal Workers, ACORN, Carpenters Union, UNITE, Paper Allied-Industrial Chemical & Energy Workers, and Hotel Employees Restaurant Employees.

The author can be reached at pww@pww.org.