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Economy Furniture strike begins in Austin


On this day in 1968, Local 456 of the Upholsterers International Union called a strike against Austin's Economy Furniture Company, six months after company officials refused to recognize the 252-83 vote by the workers for union representation. At the time Economy was the largest furniture manufacturer in Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico. Mexican Americans, almost a quarter female, comprised 90 percent of the company's 400 workers, many of whom earned only $1.75 an hour, even after more than fifteen years of service. The National Labor Relations Board ruled that Economy must negotiate with the union, but owner Milton T. Smith rejected the board's order, precipitating the strike. Smith appealed the NLRB decision to the United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit. In January 1971 the court ordered that the NLRB ruling be enforced; two months later, workers voted to end the strike. In June two months of collective bargaining began on a new three-and-a-half-year contract which was formally approved in September.

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