Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) on Friday said he supported local jobs but would not commit to opposing Union Pacific's efforts to scrap its 150-year-old contract with Palestine. The move would cost the city 65 jobs averaging $65,000 a year.
In an interview with the Herald-Press following a meeting with local business leaders, Cruz pledged to listen to both sides and follow the law. Under current law, however, UP and other railroads nationwide have prevailed in their battles against local communities.
“I'm emphatic about maintaining and saving local jobs,” Cruz said at Verabank in Palestine. “I have people in my East Texas office working with local leaders to help save jobs.”
When pressed again by the Herald-Press for an answer, however, Cruz would not commit his support for Palestine and Anderson County in their case against the railroad.
U.S. Rep. Lance Gooden (R.-Terrell) has strongly backed the city's and county's case against the railroad, which claims it has the right to abrogate the contract to maintain operational efficiencies.
In November, UP filed suit against the city in an effort to dissolve its 150-year-old contract, guaranteeing a presence in Palestine, and a number of local jobs.
Under their current contract, UP officials must employ roughly 65 local workers at the Palestine yard. If Palestine loses its court battle against the railroad giant, those jobs would disappear, causing a nearly $5 million impact on the local economy.
In town to watch his former campaign manager, Willie T. Langston receive the Distinguished Alumnus award from the Palestine High School Alumni Association, Cruz met with local leaders and business owners about Palestine's economic development.
“The senator has a lot of area to cover in Texas,” Mayor Steve Presley told the Herald-Press. “It's impressive for him to listen to rural business leaders in Palestine. It shows us that our conservative, rural values are important.”
Former Texas Secretary of Agriculture Todd Staples agreed.
“It means a lot to the entire community that Senator Cruz would take time out of his schedule for this,” he said. “We're glad he took the time to discuss economic development, and how to grow the region.”