The mayor and police chief of this central Georgia town have admitted they engaged in illegal police spying to compile to a blacklist of union sympathizers for distribution to J. P. Stevens and Co., Grumman Aerospace Corp. and other local employers.
On the strength of the admissions, the general counsel of the National Labor Relations Boards said parts of an unfair labor practices against Stevens should be reopened. Two of three unfair labor practices charges filed by the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union (ACTWU) against officials of the company's plant here recently were dismissed by an NLRB administrative law judge because of the plaintiff's failure to prove animosity on the part of Stevens, the nation's second largest textile corporation.
"[the] newly discovered evidence shows antiunion animus of wide spread and flagrant proportions," NLRB general counsel John Irving argea in a motion to reopen the record, filed in Washington last week.
"the depositions also suggest that officials of J.P. Stevens knew of the surveillance, condoned it and even encouraged it," Irving said.
Mayor Robert Rice and Police Chief Charles Osborne say they had police detectives record the lecense numbers of cars parket outside union meetings and process these numbers through a police computer to obtain automobile registration information, including the name and address of each car's owner.
The names of the computer printout then were converted by police into typed lists, which usually were picked up in the mayors's office by area industrialists.
These disclosures came in sworn depositions taken in connection with $12 million conspiracy suit tha union filed against Stevens and two smaller companies, Concord Fabric and Meadows industries.
The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Macon, Ga., charges Stevens and the other defendants with discouraging legal union activity in the Baldwin County area, exchanging information obtained by illegal police surveillance and violating the civil rights of workers and organizers from July 1976 until a cease-and-desist order was issued last April.
Rice and Osborne originally were included in the suit, along with Grumman Aerospace, Milledgeville police detective James Josey and J.C. Green, manager of the local Holiday Inn where union organizers stayed and held many of their meetings. These defendants made out-of-court settlements with the union last week, requiring them to refrain from futher blacklisting and spying and to testify in the union's suit against J.P. Stevens and the other remaining defendants. In addition, Grumman paid the clothing textile workers union a cash settlement of $10,000; the individual defendants paid smaller sums ranging from $250 to $1,000.
Grumman detailed two of its own security men to help with the police department's surveillance, Rice and osborne said. Osborne said the pair supplied him with license numbers of cars parked outside at least one union meeting.
In a formal admission of facts filed in connection with the suit, Grumman acknowledges it sent Charles J. Briscoe, a security investigator, and William J. McDermott, a lieutenant in its plant protection department, to Milledgeville in 1976 to work with the mayor and police chief "in conducting sureillance of ACTWU organization activities."
The company's statement confirmed that the two Grumman investigators gave Osborne "information identifying" people at a union meeting at the Holiday Inn.
Grumman officials in Milledgeville received copies of the blacklist and checked to see if any of their employes had met with organizers, according to the company. The statement also said Grumman executives met with the mayor, police chief and other local businessmen to discuss the police department's surveillance and blacklisting effort.
Police used a 16-year-old prisoner from the Youth Department Center in Baldwin County as a diversion for their surveillance of one ACTWU meeting at the Cement, Lime and Gypsum Workers hall in Milledgeville, according to an affidavit from William Miller, who was a detective under Osborne at the time.
Miller says he and Detective Josey ordered the youth to walk toward the union hall. When he approached it, says Miller, "The squad car drew up to him and Mr. Josey pretended to stop him, pat him down, question him and then plalce him in the squad car as if he were under arrest. While this diversion was occuring I observed and dictated into my tape recorder the numbers of license plates of cars outside the union hall."
Miller says he ran the license numbers through a police computer to produce lists of names and addresses, as Osborne ordered him to do.
The detective says he felt that the workers whose names went on the list would be fired and that what he was doing was wrong.
Osborne says he turned 20 to 24 lists over to the mayor's office. Four lists offered as exhibits in the suit contain 72 different names.
The police cheif says he felt misgivings when the name of a friend he had worked with at Stevens in the late 1950 kept turning up. "I was afraid of retaliation," he said.
"I felt like if the people were wanting these tag numbers," said Osborne, "probably they wanted to know who was organizing the union, and that he may lose his job." Oborne says he did the spying solely because the mayor ordered him to. "I was instructed to do it, and I done it," he said.
Union organizer Melvin Tate, who led the Milledgeville campaign, said the Stevens workers here were fired and harassed for their union activity, but that he was not certain if their names were on the blacklist. Several Milledgeville workers said they were fired and denied other emploment because they had attended union meetings. None of their names appeared on the four lists released in federal court, however.
"it scared the living hell out of me," said Tate of the spying. "and people working in the plants around here got right scared to mess with us much, afraid their children and kinfolk wouldn't be able to find work around here for years to come. You can't blame them."
In addition to Grumman, officials of Meadows Industries and Griffin Pipe Products said they received lists of people attending union meetings. Joe M. Tate, plant manager of Concord Fabrics' Milledgeville operation, also said he received a list and discussed it with J.P Stevens plant manager William L Wall. These admissions also came in depositions taken in the conspiracy case.
Osborne says he gave Wall a list at a secluded spot away from the mayor's office at the Stevens' official's request. William Zarkowski, plant manager of Grumman's Milledgeville facility, says Walls told him in the presence of others that up to 167 Stevens workers had gone to union meetings.
Stevens spokesman Paul Barrett said the company was "confident that no member of the Stevens management has engaged in any unlawful comspiracy with the mayor of Milledgeville or with anyone else in the community."
Rice testified in his deposition that Wall attended meetings with other industrial leaders at City Hall to discuss the surveillance. Others at these meetings corroborate the mayor's statement.
Rice said that at one such meeting Wall said he could not continue to attend the meetings or be seen talking with the mayor. The leaders continued to meet privately, however, according to rice. The mayor said Wall and other Stevens officials told him their lawyers had advised them they could not participate actively in the surveillance, but that they appreciated his efforts to keep the union out of their plant and would continue to receive the lists of those attending union meetings.
Since the textile workers union and the AFL-CIO mounted a massive joint campaign to organize J.P. Stevens in 1963, the company has compiled a record of unfair labor practices that prompted the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit to brand it "the most notorious recidivist in the field of labor law." Stevens paid the union $50,000 in an out-of-court settlement for the bugging an organizer's motel room in Wallace, S.C., in 1972.
Labor leaders and civil libertarians have long charged that a "southern conspiracy" of textile companies, police, politicians and other businessmen existed to keep unions out of the region at all costs.
The existence of such a united front was said to be common knowledge in southern milltowns but there had been little in the way of hard documentation until the Milledgeville spying surfaced.
Rice said the mayor of Milledgeville traditionally was expected to take "a leadership role" when there was a threat of unionization. Osborne said he kept an eye on all organizers who came into town as a matter of course.
"these little southern towns really fight each other over northern industry," says James Peugh, Milledgeville city attorney. "The competition is rather fierce. Some of us believe they will pave the streets with gold when they come, like Detroit when the auto plants opened up. Bob Rice felt like he had to foster a healthy atmosphere for business, and unions are definitely bad for business."
Peugh said he thought Rice, who was unavailable for comment, felt he was justified in blacklisting people because he believed "the best interests of the community as a whole" were more important than "the consequences to any individual who to any one individual who might have been on the list."
"people around here know they have something of a 'Sunbelt advantage', what with their cheap labor and all," said Peugh, "and they're anti-union as hell."