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June 10, 1978 - Image 9

Resource type:
Michigan Daily, 1978-06-10

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dispute, and gone to court to decide the legality of the
on itself. An attorney at the NLRB in Detroit who
not to be identified by name said, "Typically in J. P.
ns cases it doesn't get to the final stage .. . every
issue is litigated in those cases."
er agreed in New York that "most of (the elections)
to be set aside by the NLRB" because of unfair labor
ices during the elections.
ler from the Washington office of the NLRB said that
have been four recent cases in which circuit court
s have upheld union claims of unfair labor practices
hat three of these will be coming before the NLRB
In Wallace, N.C., Miller noted, it was ruled by the
that since it had been earlier determined by a count of
umber of workers carrying union authorization cards
majority of the workers favored the union, an unsuc-
ul union election which followed was suspect. "It was
mined that it would be impossible for the workers to
ise their free choice since there was an overwhelming
nce on the workers" from management, Miller said.
use of authorization cards to gauge the support of the
ers for the union is an issue in itself, with the union
ing that the cards are legitimate and Stevens refusing
ognize them.
EVENS spokesman Franklin said that not only doesn't
ns recognize the cards, "there isn't any company in
ountry that would." Franklin claims that all the card
s to employes is:" 'Let's have an election.' " Which is
ly what Stevens asserts is the problem with the union,
t won't hold elections.
problems that crop up on the way to an election are
sely the delays the new labor law reform bill is inten-
scut through. Several union sympathizers mentioned
hey thought the currently debated bill in the Senate is
h neededpiece of legislation.
bill would require more prompt elections once called
reater penalties for violations of the NLRA. It raises
embership on the board from five to seven. Above all
rs at least symbolic support for the unionization effort
the Congress.
dstein said the bill "opens up the avenue" and called it
first change in labor laws since the Wagner Act."
tein said the 45-47 day limit between the announ-
nt and the actual results of a union election is a
nable time period.
this measure passes it ought to be called the 'J. P.
ns & Co.' amendment because the giant anti-union
e firm helped precipitate the fight," said TRB in the
13 issue of The New Republic.
nklin said the company opposes the labor reform bill
ise "it's a snare to do by Federal law what
d be done by unions, despite the fact that most of the
ers in America don't want unions."
LLING STEVENS "anti-union," then was not so
rial as it might seem. Stevens is most unabashedly an-
on, because, they say, their workers are anti-union.
irge Meany called the company "The number one
law outlaw," because he represents, at
only 22 out of every 100 American workers, that per-
ge which is unionized.

Workers striking a J. P. STEVENS PLANT.

"You sit out there in Michigan and I sit here in New
York," said Franklin, "and we're used to unions. But these
places are exceptions. The American people don't want to
NOT ONLY do they not accept that observation, union
organizers start from radically different premises about
what it means to unionize. "Unionization is a much greater
concept than just a group of people getting together to work
on a contract," said local boycott leader Downs.
Fellow boycotter Wezeman explained that the "greater
concept" is the raising of "union consciousness" around the
country, giving workers a philosophy in addition to an
organization. The Stevens issue is discussed as though it
were more a symptom than the problem itself, the central
issue being the attitude workers themselves have to win the
rights they deserve.
The biggest obstacle to Stevens unionization, claim
organizers, is that the workers are afraid to vote for the
union because they expect retaliation from the company.
HAROLD McIVER, organization director for the AFL-
CIO Industrial Union Department in Charlotte, N.C.,
recalled a February 1975 election in one of the 64 Carolina
plants. "It got to be a few days before the election and sud-
denly they pulled out all the stoppers and sent people home
for distributing (pro-union) leaflets, even though they had
people out with anti-union leaflets."
McIver, who said he has been working to unionize Stevens
since 1963, charged that Stevens had proved it will close
plants which organize in the case of a Statesboro, Georgia
station which shut down in 1971 because (McIver claims) of
union activity. The union members have charged that the
textile firm is so large that it can afford to cut off a union-
diseased limb and continue to make a healthy profit off the
surviving plants.
National organizer Teller said "(a worker) knows that if
the union wins the election, he's out of a job. And in towns
like that (small and southern), that is to be out of a job

completely." Teller said there is pressure from "the city
fathers" and others in the community to remain non-union
to keep the local plant open.
But Franklin has clearly heard the argument before. "In
Statesboro we were making wool carpets and you know
there's just no market for those. We had to close that
down." Franklin pointed to the fact that the Roanoke
Rapids plant is still operating despite the pro-union vote
and that the New York office has just decided to undertake
a $3 million improvement plan in the plant.
T E ACTWU says that conditions in plants make the
need for a union indisputable. They point to a North
Carolina Occupational Safety and Health Administration
(OSHA) test in the Roaboke Rapids plant in which levels of
cotton dust in the air were 12 times as great as-the per-
missible level under the OSHA'standards. "Brown lung" is
not an easy disease to prove since it takes years to develop
and the cause of lung problems is not always clear.
At the same plant is 1973 the J. P. Stevens Group Noise
Level Survey found noise levels in some departments as
high as 104 decibels, 20 times over the level permitted by
the OSHA.
. The coalition which meets in the Union is just beginning
their attempt "to reach the permanent community" to con-
vince city residents to boycott Stevens products. The list of
boycottedproducts is long and amorphous since various
chains sell Stevens merchandise under their own label and
Stevens' own labels are quite diverse. Sears, J. C. Pen-
ney's, and Montgomery Ward's all sell Stevens products
under their own name. Hudson's uses the Stevens name, but
K-Mart calls Stevens articles "Tastemaker." Among the
names the coalition want consumers to avoid are: Utica,
Beauti-Blend, Peanuts (with the comic strip characters on
them), and Dinah Shore, Suzanne Pleshette, and Yves St.
Laurent designer labels as well as Finesse, Hip-lets, Big
Mama. Spirit hosieries, and Fine Arts towels.
WORD OF the boycott has apparently been wide-spread.
On May 16 the East Lansing City Council passed a
resolution condemning labor practices by Stevens,
prohibiting the city from buying Stevens products, and en-
couraging East Lansing residents to join the boycott.
"J. P. Stevens is the largest labor law violator in the
country," said Council Member Alan Fox, explaining the
unanimous vote by the five officials. "It's something that
all of us have been aware of." When asked if the council of-
ten makes statements as removed from East Lansing as a
union struggle in the south, Fox said, "Well we don't often
do it, but every once in a while an issue comes up which is so
well known, like the Vietnam war, or South Africa or J. P.
Stevens." The council also has an ordinance giving
preference to companies which don't do business in South
It's not clear that the Stevens boycott "dwarfs" the grape
boycott of a decade ago as U.S. News and World Report ob-
served a year ago, but neither is it apparent that the Wall
Street Journal was speaking objectively when it stated
matter-of-factly on the editorial page in March that "The
Union has, essentially lost its long fight to organize
. See THE UNION;Pagel

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