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UNIONS BOYCOTT BLACK HILLS GOLD JEWELRY

 UNIONS BOYCOTT BLACK HILLS GOLD JEWELRY
 DEADWOOD, S.D., May 13 /PRNewswire/ -- At the request of the


United Steelworkers of America (USW), the AFL-CIO has endorsed a national boycott of Black ills Gold Jewelry made by F.L. Thorpe & Co. in Deadwood, S.D.
 The 80 employees of the jewelry manufacturer, all of whom are women, voted overwhelmingly in July 1990 to join the USW and are now represented by Local 7044, but they are still without a contract.
 "This is a modern-day sweatshop," said David Foster, director of USW District 33. "More than half the workforce earns minimum wage and many qualify for food stamps and other government assistance although they work 40 hours per week." Foster said workers have no sick leave or pension plan and cannot afford the health insurance offered by the company.
 Thorpe sells its original, high-quality jewelry for as much as $1,700 per piece, many times more than the weekly pay of its employees, who were offered as little as a two-cents-an-hour increase.
 The union said the company hired a union-busting law firm, Berens & Tate of Omaha, Neb., to assist in negotiations. After seven months of fruitless negotiations, usually meeting one day a month, the members voted to strike in April, 1991.
 Thorpe is currently operating with permanent replacement workers. The National Labor Relations Board has issued an unfair labor practice complaint against the company, alleging it used threats and coercion against the workers.
 The boycott, imposed by the AFL-CIO Union Label & Service Trades Department, will remain in effect until the company negotiates a fair first contract for its highly skilled Steelworkers, the union said.
 -0- 5/13/92
 /CONTACT: Gary Hubbard, boycott coordinator, USW Communications, 412-562-2442, or David Foster, director, USW District 33, 218-722-2869 or 612-645-8454/ CO: United Steelworkers of America; Black Hills Gold Jewelry ST: South Dakota IN: MNG SU: CON


CD -- PG011 -- 9841 05/13/92 15:31 EDT
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Date:May 13, 1992
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