An attorney for Cotrell and Leonard, the traditional supplier of Harvard's graduation gowns, said yesterday the company believes the International Ladies' Garment Workers Union (ILGWU) is preventing an election that would allow workers to unionize.
John Scagnelli, the attorney, presented the company's side of the controversy surrounding its labor practices at a press conference yesterday at the Sheraton Commander.
In the Tigers' Den
National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) regulations require that the ILGWU, representing the 35 company workers who have been on strike since August, agree to the election, Scagnelli said. He added that both the company's management and employees agreed last fall to hold a secret-ballot election.
"If the ILGWU has the support of a majority of the employees, I don't understand why it won't agree to a secret election," Scagnelli said.
ILGWU officials could not be reached for comment yesterday.
The ILGWU has charged the company with unfair labor practices, and the NLRB has scheduled a hearing for May 27.
The NLRB has already settled several charges filed last fall, including poor working conditions, Scagnelli said, adding that reinstatment of striking workers will be the only issue at the hearing.
Cotrell and Leonard has offered to reinstate striking workers, Scagnelli said, adding that ILGWU refused both the company's December 10 and January 28 offers.
"This is strictly a union attempt to break into a non-union plant," Anthony J. Harden, vice president and general manager of Cotrell and Leonard, said earlier this week. "Basically, the way they're going about it is to blackmail us into letting them in without a secret-ballot election."
The ILGWU requested a card-count last summer, but the company refused, citing a U.S. Supreme Court decision ruling that card-count elections usually are not a good indication of workers' attitudes.
"No matter what the union says, they're the ones that are holding the election up," Harden said.
The ILGWU recently filed another charge against Cotrell and Leonard for counter-picketing the strikers. But the company's management had nothing to do with organizing that action, June McPhail, secretary to the working employees of Cotrell and Leonard, said yesterday.
"Mr. Harden is not God's gift to the working world, but at no time did he open his mouth about the union," McPhail said, adding, "He's not a saint, but he does bend over backwards to be legal."
Production at the company has not been affected by controversy surrounding the strike, Estelle Mikowshi, a factory worker at Cotrell and Leonard, said yesterday. She added that a decrease would not become noticeable for another three to four weeks, when demand reaches its peak.
A major decrease in gown orders would cause serious financial problems for the company, Harden said yesterday, adding that the magnitude of the effect would depend on the extent of the boycott. Harden added that the boycott will not threaten the existence of the company.
The senior class committee voted unanimously earlier this week to encourage seniors to wear the alternative gown the Coop is providing this year.
"The class committee does not want to put undo strain on the company," Caryl E. Yanow '80, class marshal and senior class committee member, said yesterday. "We only want to make a symbolic gesture in support of the striking workers."
Vandals destroyed many caps and gowns stored at the Cotrell and Leonard factory on April 1, Scagnelli said, adding that the incident is still under investigation