February 25, 1974
02/25/1974 The Farah Manufacturing Co., Amalgameted Clothing Workers of America and City officials announce a settlement in the labor dispute between the company and the union. From left to right are Mayor pro tem Ruben Schaeffer; Kenn Carr, Local Farah attorney; Mayor Fred Hervey; Val Wertheimer, ACWA vice president and Antonio Sanchez, chairman of the El Paso ACWA joint board.
NEW YORK - Willie Farah, the El Paso pants magnate who once swore he would never allow unions in his plants, breakfasted yesterday morning as a guest of the union which made him break that vow — and almost broke his company in the process.
The breakfast meeting, held in the hotel suite of Murray H. Finley, President of the Amalgamated Clothing
Workers of America (ACWA), was by all reports, cordial, friendly and productive.
IT WAS also a sure sign that detente finally has come to El Paso.
Farah, Finley and ACWA Secretary-Treasurer Jacob Sheinkman then took an elevator 24 stories down to a large ballroom at the New York Hilton and told a crowded press conference that the ACWA has officially ended its 19-month strike and national boycott against the Farah Manufacturing Co.
In return, the company has agreed to recognize the ACWA as sole bargaining agent for all Farah worker's.
FINAL settlement of this often bitter dispute, which had become a major national cause among church groups, Chicano-power organizations
The turning point came, according to both sides, when the ACWA told Farah last week that they could produce union pledge cards from a majority of the Farah workers.
That union card count, conducted last Friday under supervision of El Paso Mayor Fred Hervey, who was chosen by both sides as an impartial observer, showed the union had 67 per cent support among (he approximately 8,-000 Farah workers, including strikers, who were polled.
THAT POINT established, Farah, his profits virtually eliminated by the highly successful ACWA boycott of Farah slacks, had little choice but to agree to bargain with the union.
Union officials said privately that the recent decision of NLRB Law Judge Walter Maloney may be have been a key factor in forcing the company to settle. That ruling held that Farah fired six employes of a San Antonio plant for their union-organizing
activities, the event which sparked the strike by some 2,000 Farah workers in Mav 1972.
"They (Farah) are law abiding and realized this decision would probably go against them, when reviewed by the full NLRB, " a union official speculated.
HOWEVER, spokesmen for both the union and Farah acknowledged that the ACWA boycott struck the killing blow.
"The boycott had a vicious effect," Farah declared yesterday.
While he declined to say precisely how much the boycott had cost his firm, this much is known: Farah had to close four plants and slow production in his remaining El Paso plants, laying off close to 5,000 workers in the process; Farah stock, once selling at more than $30 a share in 1972, fell as low as $3.25 and closed last Friday at $8.
FARAH SAW his profits drop from $6 million in 1971 to a loss of $8.3 million in 1972. Although he claimed much of this loss was due to production problems, he never recovered in 1973.
"The damn boycott is what did it to us," a source close to the Farah management said yesterday.
Farah, Finley and Sheinkman, the bitter boycott behind them, smiling and shaking hands for television cameramen, expressed hope for a bright future and greater-than-ever prosperity for the Farah firm.
"I'M HAPPY the problem is settled so that we can get back to making the best trousers in the country and selling them in a free market place," the youthful-looking Farah said.
When asked whether he expected to have good relations with the ACWA, which at times has painted him as little more than a feudal patrone who surrounds his mostly Mexican-American workers with barbed wire, Farah smiled grimly and said: '"There is only one way to go."
The two union chiefs, both obviously elated by their victory, refused to gloat and declined comment on their earlier charges that Farah has exploited his workers in a repressive "climate of fear an tension.
"WE'RE NOT interested in exacerbating the past," said Finley. "We are looking forward to a healthy relationship with the Farah company, full of trust."
The spirit of goodwill was marred only slightly when a group of boycott supporters trooped into the back of the ballroom and began chanting: "Farah workers broke the ass of Willie Farah and his class."
Union officials, obviously embarrassed by this demonstration, cut off press questioning and shuttled the three principals out of the room as the shouting began.
CONTRACT TALKS between Farah and the ACWA will begin as soon as the union can select a bargaining team representative of all the Farah plants, including those already closed by the company.
Union officials say this could be done within a week. While both sides claim there was no understanding within the settlement of the
terms to be included in the new union contract, it is assumed that Farah is aware of the type of contract the ACWA uses elsewhere.
"IF THEY don't have more copies of our former contracts with other firms than we do, I'd be very surprised," commented one union official.
Finley said at the press conference yesterday that the ACWA would be seeking improved wages, more holidays, insurance and other fringe benefits and grievance procedures.
Finley also hinted that hit union wants to play ball with Farah. Noting that an ACWA settlement with the Hart, Shafner and Marx clothing firm in Chicago has led to 64 years without' a strike, the ACWA, president declared: "We are looking forward to the same kind of relations with the Farah company with great confidence."