Texas labor leaders look to boost union awareness, reach more career seekers

Texas faced unprecedented winter storms just a couple of weeks ago that left many without water, power or heat. Some groups rose to the occasion in helping their fellow Texans weather the storm.

United Association Local 286 Business Manager Robert “Chap” Thornton joined America’s Work Force Union Podcast to discuss the statewide damage, what lessons were learned and union awareness.

How winter storms affected Texans

Thornton said work was busy before the storms hit, despite the COVID-19 pandemic. He said the storms brought work to a halt, as the state was unprepared and people struggled to get to work, completely shutting down projects.

He detailed the storms and the experiences of Local 286 members, saying that everything was gone. Central Texas was hit hard, with many residents losing power, water and heat. This left homes freezing, rupturing pipes, creating bigger issues.

The UA stepped up, purchasing $350,000 worth of plumbing and piping supplies that UA Locals in north Texas were running low on. These supplies were split amongst various UA Local Unions in the state to help members and those living in the community. Thornton was proud that Local 286 was able to help some low-income families in the Austin area.

He said there are some lessons to be learned from the storms and the consequences that came with them. Texans need to better prepare for inclement weather. The preparation includes winterizing portions of plumbing systems, resources need to be prepared for similar situations and utility prices need to be regulated so all Texans can afford power.

Union awareness in Texas

Thornton said more Texans should be aware of unions. While Texas is a So-Called “Right to Work” state, he said unions still operate and thrive in the state while protecting workers.

Despite the heavy anti-union sentiment in much of the politics of Texas, Thornton said they just have to work harder to educate Texans. This includes teaching students about the trades and the benefits of a union at a young age. One way Local 286 does this is by participating in job fairs, career days and other events for job seekers.


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