“Talkin’ Union”

“Talkin’ Union” is an oral history film about four Texas women and their union organizing activities in the years 1930 through 1960. The women are Alberta Snid, participant in the 1938 Pecan Shellers Strike in San Antonio, the largest strike in the Southwest during this period; Charlotte Graham, leader of the 1935 Dallas garment worker strike and member of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers Union; Olivia Rawlston, president of the Black ILGWU local in Dallas for twelve years; and Andrea Martinez, leader of the ILGWU in Laredo during the 1950s and 1960s.

Talkin’ Union raises significant issues about women in the Texas workforce. In 1930, one in four women worked outside the home. Today, one in two women work. The problems women faced in 1930 are the problems they face now: low pay for women’s work with few benefits and poor working conditions. Though some of their attempts to win better pay and improve working conditions failed, they remain convinced of the importance of their experience in their own lives and the lives of others.

“…I think we learned a whole lot. I think we learned how to even defend ourselves more. I think we forgot a little bit of the fear we had. Because before we couldn’t say nothing, we couldn’t talk. Afterwards it was entirely different. We learned that through organization we could do something….” Alberta Snid, San Antonio pecan sheller

The documentary is an hour long and is broken into four segments for internet viewing purposes.  It is black and white. It was produced in 1977 by People’s History in Texas with the use of National Endowment of the Humanities Youth Grant.

Featured Video: “The Law Firm for the Poor”

by Richard Croxdale

In 1966, the Austin Legal Aid Society was established. It was one of the first in the country that took advantage of that vital section of the War on Poverty laws passed during the Johnson Presidency. The Austin office was also one of the more active and dynamics offices in the nation.

Legal Aid is often called The Law Firm for the Poor. The Austin office provided everyday services such as adoptions, divorces, and wills. They helped clients negotiate the bureaucracy to acquire food and housing and medical care.

Until the 1980’s, Legal Aid was also involved in legal reform. The local office battled Urban Renewal, unfair landlords, gentrification. Legal Aid sued to end unconstitutional jail conditions, fought for a warranty of habitability for renters, and helped establish due process for mental health patients.

PHIT produced a documentary in 2006 to celebrate 40 years of outstanding service to Austin and to the nation.


Featured Video: John Faulk for Congress

by Richard Croxdale

In 1983, People’s History in Texas followed John Henry Faulk around on his campaign trail in his quixotic run for Congress in the 6th Congressional District against Phil Gramm. Phil Gramm had resigned his office as a Democrat and ran again as a Reagan Republican in a special election.

John Henry Faulk is the legendary storyteller, star on Hee-Haw, who was blacklisted in the 1950’s and filed suit, winning and thereby destroying the blacklist.

The video interviews East Texas residents who supported Faulk because of his involvement in environmental issues that were important to them–stopping the canalization of the Trinity River, opposing lignite strip mining in Grimes County, and preventing the creation of a low level waste dump.

Faulk lost, as was generally predicted. Gramm went on to become Representative for the 6th Congressional District and then Senator for Texas. His greatest claim to infamy is the passionate support for the elimination of regulation of hedge funds in the late 90’s. The world would have a been a different, better and more colorful place if John Henry Faulk had won.

The video was not used in the campaign, nor did it advocate his election. It was a slice of life in the times of extraordinary individual.