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TTHREE MONTHS AGO, the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union organized a nationwide boycott of products manufactured by the J.P. Stevens Company. The North Carolina-based textile firm, which for years has been fighting unionization efforts, is infamous for its poor treatment of its workers. Although it is the second largest textile manufacturer in the nation, J.P. Stevens currently pays its employees $54--31 per cent--less than the national average weekly wage for unionized textile workers. Thousands of J.P. Stevens workers have been disabled by byssinosis (brown lung), a disease caused by exposure to cotton dust levels three times as high as those permitted under national minimum health standards.
J.P. Stevens' success in fighting unionization attempts thus far is due in large part to the company's ruthless reliance on a variety of unfair and illegal labor practices. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has found J.P. Stevens guilty in 15 instances of illegally discharging workers who were attempting to organize or of bargaining in bad faith. To date the company has been forced to pay over $1.3 million to 289 illegally-fired workers. J.P. Stevens has also been found guilty of bugging union organizers' headquarters and of federal tax evasion.
So far the J.P. Stevens boycott has received the endorsement of the AFL-CIO and a number of leading southern civil rights advocates. Locally, a student committee last week sent letters to the Harvard Coop and the Harvard Student Agencies Linen Service asking them to observe the boycott. So far neither the Coop nor HSA has said that it will do so.
The J.P. Stevens employee's struggle to achieve a living wage and safe working conditions is a struggle for simple justice. The Harvard community should aid the textile workers by supporting the boycott.
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