J.P. Stevens Products has threatened to close its Easthampton plants as a reaction to speeches, made by Gov. Michael Dukakis throughout the state, which supported the boycott of Stevens products in protest of the company's labor practices.
"It must be assumed," James D. Finely, president of J.P. Stevens, said in a letter to Dukakis on June 15, "that any corporation so distasteful to you that you make a public issue of it apparently is not wanted as a corporate citizen of Massachusetts."
"If this is the case I would like to have you confirm this to me as we will have to consider the removal of our plants from Massachusetts as we do not want to be anywhere where we are not wanted," Finley added.
Dukakis said in a reply to Finley that he was pleased to have J.P. Stevens in Massachusetts "as long as it upholds the law as it applies to all our citizens, including labor."
The governor's office has not received any response from Finley concerning the governor's letter, Alan Raymond, the governor's press secretary, said yesterday.
The textile company has three plants in Easthampton which employ 300 workers and produce rubber and plastic products. Most of the company's business operations are concentrated in southern states.
"The loss of the three plants would have a great impact on the immediate areas with the loss of the jobs but it would not be devestating to the state as a whole," Raymond said.
The National Labor Relations Board and the courts have cited J.P. Stevens for numerous violations of labor laws. In his letter to Finley, Dukakis wrote that he found the language of the federal circuit court of appeals to be "extraordinarily strong regarding the management practices of Stevens" concerning labor issues.
The federal court said that the company has a reputation as the most "notorious recidivist in the field of labor law."
A "Notice to Employees" at the Easthampton plant stated that the conditions at the plant are improving and that the boycott threatens jobs, Lewis Coco, vice president and general manager of the Easthampton plants, said yesterday.
Mike Schippani, New England coordinator for the J.P. Stevens boycott, disagreed yesterday with the Stevens statement. "Conditions are improving at the plant because the boycott is effective. Stevens' sales are up but their profits are down as they are cutting their prices to push their goods to stores," he said.
"Finley was playing a game when he threatened to close to the plants. He wanted to intimidate Gov. Dukakis and create tension in the state to slow the boycott down," he added.
"We don't know if the threat is real or not," Raymond said. "The governor would like to make sure that the last plants stay in the state. However, he wants decent working condition for the workers."