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JUDGE FINDS FIELDCREST BROKE LABOR RULES
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JUDGE FINDS FIELDCREST BROKE LABOR RULES

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Federal judges have found Fieldcrest Cannon guilty of a number of labor law violations, but an appeal by the company is likely.

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Union officials and members celebrated a major legal victory over Fieldcrest Cannon Tuesday, while company officials were already talking appeal.

In separate decisions, two federal administrative law judges found Eden-based Fieldcrest guilty of more than 150 counts of labor law violations dating back to 1991.Judge Howard Grossman declared results from the union's 1991 unsuccessful election in seven Fieldcrest plants in Cabarrus and Rowan counties invalid and ordered a new election.

Fieldcrest, a bedding products and towel maker, also was ordered to pay 4,000 union workers more than $3 million in back pay and to reinstate 14 illegally fired workers.

``This is a slam-dunk decision in the company's face,' said Ernest Bennett, assistant Southern director for the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union.

Union officials and 33 Fieldcrest union members from Eden and Fieldale, Va., held a press conference Tuesday in Greensboro. The union represents about 1,500 workers at Fieldcrest's four Eden plants.

Fieldcrest officials said Tuesday they planned to appeal certain parts of the ruling to the full National Labor Relations Board in Washington.

``We don't agree with much or any of what is in these rulings,' said Fieldcrest vice president Osborne ``Ozzie' Raines.

``Over the next week, we will really get in and analyze the rulings and decide which parts we will make subject to appeal and which ones we will put behind us.'

If Fieldcrest appeals, it could take up to six months for the full board to consider the judges' decisions, according to the labor board's regional office in Winston-Salem.

One of the rulings that will most likely be appealed is the invalid election results that were found at the seven Cabarrus and Rowan plants. The union lost the 1991 election 3,233 to 3,034.

Judge Grossman found that Fieldcrest intimidated workers in an attempt to keep the union out and said 13 employees were illegally fired because they were union supporters.

Judge Robert Batson found that a 14th union member, Laverne Lambeth, was unjustly fired last May from Fieldcrest's decorative bedding plant in Eden because of her union activities. The firing led to one- and two-day strikes at the Eden and Fieldale, Va., plants.

The back pay issue dates back to 5.5 percent wage increases that Fieldcrest granted nonunion workers in September 1991 at the Cabarrus and Rowan plants following the union election.

Union workers at the other plants were not given any pay increases until January 1992, when they were granted 4.5 percent wage increases. The $3 million is the one percent difference, plus interest.

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