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ILGWU Seeks Wide Boycott of Leslie Fay

NEW YORK -- The ILGWU has begun implementing what it says will be a "massive boycott" of Leslie Fay products in the wake of its strike against the beleaguered apparel maker, and said its first target this week will be Lord & Taylor and Saks Fifth...

NEW YORK — The ILGWU has begun implementing what it says will be a “massive boycott” of Leslie Fay products in the wake of its strike against the beleaguered apparel maker, and said its first target this week will be Lord & Taylor and Saks Fifth Avenue stores.

The union, which went out on strike against Leslie Fay on Wednesday, said Friday that it had sent a letter to 56 retailers across the country informing them of its plans to conduct a consumer boycott of stores carrying Leslie Fay products, the best-known being the firm’s signature brand, and the Kasper for ASL label, produced by the company’s Sassco Fashions division.

In a letter dated June 1 and signed by Jeff Hermanson, national organizing director for the ILGWU, retailers were told that every Leslie Fay production, warehousing and shipping facility in the U.S. is “crippled by this strike, and Leslie Fay now faces a complete shutdown of its business.”

“The strike has the overwhelming support of more than 90 percent of Leslie Fay workers,” Hermanson wrote. “This strike will make it impossible for Leslie Fay/Sassco to produce and deliver garments in a timely fashion. International Brotherhood of Teamsters strike sanctions will complicate pickup and delivery from Leslie Fay/Sassco sites.”

A spokesman for Leslie Fay said the statement was “certainly not true,” and that “we have prepared for this and have taken steps to insure that our distribution is on time and on schedule.”

The spokesman said the “trucks are rolling” at the main distribution center at Laughlin, Pa., but a union official said only “a trickle” of trucks got through. Calls to regional officials of the Teamsters in Pennsylvania were not returned. The Leslie Fay spokesman said production is being shifted to offshore factories.

Hermanson told the stores the union is conducting a boycott by distributing leaflets at retail locations and asking the public to “boycott the store itself during the pendency of this dispute.”

“The union appeals to you to exercise your managerial discretion during this dispute to refrain from selling garments which have been produced by Leslie Fay/Sassco,” the letter said.

Susan Cowell, an ILGWU vice president, told WWD Friday that the union had not yet gotten any response from retailers.

“We will be making a decision in the next few days as to just how we will launch this nationwide boycott,” Cowell said. “It looks like Lord & Taylor and Saks will be the first target for a variety of factors that I cannot discuss.”

Lord & Taylor and Saks declined comment on the matter on Friday. A spokesman for Bergner’s/Carson Pirie Scott, Milwaukee, said, “It is difficult for us to assess the situation until we have all the facts.”

Federated Department Stores issued this statement: “In a free market economy, we take our direction from our customers. In all such instances where special interests come to bear, we believe it is up to the customer to decide.”

Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for Congressman Paul E. Kanjorski (D., Pa.), who along with seven other Pennsylvania House members has requested an interim status report from the Justice Department and the Securities & Exchange Commission on their investigations of Leslie Fay’s accounting scandal, said Friday that the SEC had sent a letter confirming it was conducting an investigation, but said it could not issue a status report.

The spokeswoman said no response had been received from Attorney General Janet Reno on the request to the Justice Department.