HARLINGEN, RGV – A labor federation has a very different opinion to two Rio Grande Valley state senators on Gov. Greg Abbott’s appointment of Julian Alvarez to the Texas Workforce Commission.
Abbott made the announcement Monday morning, saying Alvarez, a resident of Harlingen and former president and CEO of the Rio Grande Valley Partnership, will serve as a commissioner for a term set to expire on February 1, 2017. Alvarez announced his resignation from the Rio Grande Valley Partnership in a letter to board chairwoman Anabel Cardona last Thursday.
The Texas Workforce Commission is charged with overseeing and providing workforce development services to employers and job seekers in Texas.
Senators Juan Hinojosa and Eddie Lucio quickly issued statements supporting Abbott’s appointment of Alvarez to the TWC. The AFL-CIO, a state labor federation consisting of more than 235,000 affiliated union members, was not supportive, however.
“In the annals of strange identification of who is ‘labor,’ I’m not sure if a fiction writer would make this up: Gov. Greg Abbott has appointed a Chamber of Commerce CEO to a seat on the Texas Workforce Commission reserved for a labor representative,” said Ed Sills, the AFL-CIO’s communications director, in a newsletter emailed to AFL-CIO members on Monday afternoon.
Sills pointed out that Alvarez succeeds Ronald Congleton, a Rick Perry appointee and Teamster, on the Texas Workforce Commission. Sills said Congleton was “an outstanding voice for working people.”
The Texas AFL-CIO issued a news release on the subject of Alvarez’s appointment, with a headline of “Fox Guards Henhouse, Part 2: Chamber of Commerce CEO Gets Labor Rep Position at Texas Workforce Commission.”
“The choice of Julian Alvarez, CEO of the Rio Grande Valley Partnership, to a position the Legislature set aside for a labor representative is a new dimension in appointing the fox to guard the henhouse,” Texas AFL-CIO President John Patrick said in the news release.
“This appointment continues a disturbing pattern of undercutting the Legislature’s decision to give working people a voice in state government. I don’t know too many workers who feel like the Chamber of Commerce really speaks for them. This makes it plain where working people stand in Gov. Abbott’s agenda for Texas.”
Patrick said the appointment comes on the heels of Gov. Abbott’s appointment of an opponent of traditional public employee pensions to head the State Pension Review Board. He said Abbott’s own news release doesn’t even recognize the seat is designated for a labor representative.
“Even Gov. Rick Perry, with whom we had some profound disagreements, honored the Legislature’s intent of appointing true representatives of working people to labor-related positions. We had an outstanding relationship with Ronald Congleton, who earned the trust of Perry’s administration and the labor movement,” Patrick said.
“Now, the purported representative of working people on the panel that considers the Unemployment Insurance system, job training and important workplace rights is a Chamber of Commerce executive. This sets a terrible precedent for Texas.”
Senators Lucio, D-Brownsville, and Hinojosa, D-McAllen, had a different take on the appointment.
“The Rio Grande Valley is rich in leadership, and I’m proud to confirm Julian Alvarez to the Texas Workforce Commission,” Lucio said, in a prepared statement. “As CEO of our regional chamber of commerce, Julian is well attuned to the economic development and workforce needs of the Valley and of the State. I’m grateful to Governor Abbott for recognizing the wealth of talent South Texas can contribute in governing our state boards and commissions.”
In his statement, Hinojosa said:
“Today, Governor Greg Abbott appointed Julian Alvarez of Harlingen to the Texas Workforce Commission. He will serve as one of three Commissioners charged with overseeing and providing workforce development services to employers and job seekers in Texas.
“Mr. Alvarez previously served as president and CEO of the Rio Grande Valley Partnership fostering relationships and coordinating programs to advance regional economic development. I have worked with Mr. Alvarez over many years and I am confident that he has the experience and leadership to effectively guide the agency.
“Julian Alvarez has invaluable knowledge that will be a tremendous asset for the Workforce Commission. I look forward to working with Mr. Alvarez on finding solutions to serve the workforce development needs of Texans.
“We are proud to have a Rio Grande Valley native represented on such a critical state agency. Congratulations Mr. Alvarez!”
Abbott’s office issued these biographical details on Alvarez:
“Julian Alvarez previously served as president and CEO of the Rio Grande Valley Partnership fostering relationships and coordinating programs to advance the regional economic development. Prior to that, he served as a Texas regional director for the U.S. Senate. He has also served as a state trooper for the Texas Department of Public Safety and worked for Texas State Technical College as the director of college information. Alvarez has served as a member for various boards including the Border Trade Alliance, the I-69 Alliance, Transportation Advocates of Texas and RGV Lead. He is currently a board member for Teach for America and Texas Association of Sports Officials. Alvarez earned a Bachelor of Science in Secondary Education from Texas A&I University in Kingsville.”
The sentence on Alvarez working as a Texas regional director for the U.S. Senate refers to his time as regional director in the Valley for U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison.
Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying this story shows then-Rio Grande Valley Partnership President & CEO Julian Alvarez speaking at a Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council meeting.