The New York Life Insurance Co. will be the next target in labor's "corporate campaign" to pressure the J.P. Stevens Co. into unionizing, the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union announced yesterday.
The union said it will offer two alternative candidates for the board of New York Life to challenge the seats held by company chairman R. Manning Brown, who is also a J.P. Stevens director, and J.P. Stevens Chairman James D. Finley, who also sits on the insurance company's board.
Both are up reelection next April, in what normally would be a routine procedure. The candidates challenging the two directors are Clarence B. Jones, former publisher-editor of the New York Amsterdam News, and Sister Ann patrick Ware, associate director of the National Council of Churches of Christ's Commission of Faith and Order.
The strongly anti-union Stevens Co., a textile manufacturer, has been labeled "public enemy No. 1" by organized labor and for more than a year has been the focus of labor's most important campaign to win union representation.
A nationwide consumer boycott has been called by the textile workers union.
But the main victories so far have come in what is called the "corporate campaign," which is aimed at isolating J.P. Stevens from the rest of the business and financial community and which has focussed mainly on the outside members of the J.P. Stevens board, and their own companies and banking affiliations.
Last March, Avon Products Chairman David Mitchell resigned from the J.P. Stevens board. Earlier that month, Mitchell, and Stevens chairman Finley, were asked to leave the board of Manufacturers Hanover Bank of New York after the campaign targeted the bank and it was threatened with the loss of union business.
More recently, another Stevens board member, E. Virgil Conway, who heads the Seamen's Bank for Savings in New York, has been the target of the corporate campaign.
Because New York Life is a mutual insurance company, it has no shareholders, and its board is elected by its more than 6 million policyholders, each with a single vote.
The New York State superintendent of insurance has been asked by the union for access to the life insurance company's policyholder list and he has set a hearing for next Monday on the request. There is a provision for obtaining such a list in a contested election of directors.
New York Life chairman Brown, in a statement, termed the request for the policyholders' names "improper" and said he is sure the insurance superintendent would turn it down.
"I am sure that Superintendent of Insurance Albert Lewis will agree after he has heard all the facts that the proper forum for the J.P. Stevens labor dispute is the National Labor Relations Board and the federal courts, not the state insurance department," said Brown.
"I feel certain that superintendent Lewis will not permit any improper use of the law to mount a harassing and expensive contested election," he added.
"If we don't get the policyholder list, we would be at a serious disadvantage," Alan Blumberg, an attorney for the union, conceded.
But Ray Rogers, who is heading the corporate campaign, said his people already are scoring lists of labor, religious, political and community officials for names of New York Life Policyholders to get a required 6,300 signatures to force release of a list, should they get a turndown from the superintendent's office.
Rogers also acknowledged that a number of unions have their pension assets managed by New York Life but he declined to disclose who they are and he said that as of now they are not being asked to withdraw their funds from the insurance company.