J.P. Stevens & Co. treats its foreigh workers better than its American employees, a group of foreign union leaders charged yesterday in endorsing the AFL-CIO's boycott of the huge multinational textile firm.
Representatives of textile workers in five countries where Stevens has had foreign operations in recent years - Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Mexico and France - pledged to bring to bear whatever pressure we can" to encourage unionization of Stevens' 85 American plants.
The union officials said Stevens' foreign plants, which constitute only a small part of its overall operations, are unionized - some as a result of national law - and added:
"It should be noted that the workers in the Stevens plants in our countries enjoy relatively higher wages, more entensive benefits and far better working conditions than those in the company's U.S. plans."
Tjey said they would take whatever steps permitted by law to discourage sales of Stevens products in their countries, including boycotts where permitted.
Stevens, the nation's second largest textile firm, has been resisting unionization of its Southern plants for 14 years and is the AFL-CIO's No. 1 organizing target. Earlier this week, the U.S. Second District Court of appeals in New York found Stevens in Contempt of court for engaging in "massive violations of its employees' rights" and called it the "most notorious recidivist in the field of labor law."
It was not immediately clear how much the foreign efforts would help the boycott, which as had inconclusive results since it began last November.
Murray Finley, president of the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers, which is attempting to organize Stevens, estimated that exports and foreign-made textiles account for 6 to 10 per cent of Steveb's overall production.
Finley denied that the recruitment of foreign assistance indicates that the boycott is sputtering out at home. He said a recent corporate financial report indicated that, while sales had increased in recent months, quarterly profits had dropped 26 per cent from last year. He said the company was "holding sales like they never had before," just to keep its sales record high and make the boycott appear unsuccessful.
"I'll go for this 'failure' of 26 per cent off profits every quarter," said Finley. "If this is failure, I'll go for failure."