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NLRB complaint accuses Guess? Inc. of disrupting union organization bid

November 19, 1997 GMT

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ The National Labor Relations Board is accusing apparel-maker Guess? Inc. of waging a campaign of coercion designed to prevent employees from forming a union.

The complaint, which triggers a Feb. 23 hearing, was issued after a yearlong investigation of allegations brought by the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees, or Unite.

Guess is accused of firing 20 employees for union-related activities, creating an in-house union to undermine Unite organizing efforts and coercing workers into participating in an anti-union rally, said Peter Tovar, a deputy regional attorney for the NLRB in Los Angeles.

``It was not in our view a free expression of the employees’ desires. Rather it was all orchestrated and coerced by the employer,″ Tovar said Wednesday. ``We found that they threatened and coerced and intimidated employees.″

An attorney for Guess said the company had not seen a copy of the complaint but had some idea about its contents. ``We believe we will prevail on the merits at administrative trial or thereafter,″ said Glenn Weinman, the company’s general counsel.

``It’s a major victory for the workers to know that Guess will soon no longer be able to violate their rights and think they can get away with it,″ said Hillary Horn, a spokeswoman for Unite in Washington.

The complaint seeks reinstatement of the fired workers and lost pay. It also seeks to have Guess post a notice acknowledging its violations and that it be read to an assembly of workers by Maurice Marciano, the company’s chairman and chief executive officer.

The 20 employees were reinstated last year, but the NLRB kept their dismissal as part of the complaint because the company fired two of them a second time during 1997, allegedly for reasons linked to the union organizing campaign, said Tovar.

The complaint is the latest in a series of labor-related problems for Guess. The union has filed a lawsuit against the company alleging that workers employed by Guess contractors were fired after alleging sweatshop abuses last August. The union also has asked the NLRB to investigate those allegations, said Ms. Horn.

Unite also has sued the company for unfair labor practices over its decision earlier this year to move much of its Southern California production facilities to Mexico and South America. Guess has filed a countersuit.