Unions target Houston with membership drive

AFL-CIO has launched a new campaign to unionize Southern workers through a multi-union effort in Houston, the country's fourth largest city and one considered by labor to be an ''open shop'' city - one in which union membership is discouraged.

Thirty international unions have pooled their resources and drawn in outside organizers and staff people to confront in Houston ''the challenges of Sunbelt economics and the burgeoning use of union-busting labor-management consultants to stifle union membership,'' says the AFL-CIO. Houston is the base of three such consultants who operate mostly in the South.

Alan Kistler, director of the federation's organizing department, told a gathering of nearly 200 Houston and international union representatives in late October, ''Unions must reach out to millions. . . . The real challenge is organizing in the South.''

AFL-CIO used similar mass-organizing tactics in Los Angeles in the 1970s and claims to have added 400,000 new members.

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