CHICAGO -- An Illinois subsidiary of Michigan-based First of America Bank Corp. has become the target of a labor-union boycott protesting the company's ties to an agribusiness company.

Local 837 of the Allied Industrial Workers of America mounted the campaign - including letter-writing and withdrawals of deposits - to put pressure on A.E. Staley Manufacturing Co., which is accused of various anti-union actions.

Staley's chairman, Robert Powers, is a director of First of America's Decatur, Ill., subsidiary. Staley, owned by the British conglomerate Tate & Lyle PLC, is a Decatur-based manufacturer of corn sweeteners and other products.

The move against First of America-Decatur, which has $258 million in assets, follows a blueprint developed in the 1970s by Corporate Campaign Inc., New York. Chemical Banking Corp. First Bank System Inc., and others with similar director interlocks have faced Corporate Campaign's wrath.

"As long as First of America maintains intimate relations with union busters, we can't allow it to serve as a repository of union funds," said Ray Rogers, director of Corporate Campaign and architect of the boycott approach.

A union leaflet accused Staley of wanting "to gut our contract."

Prefers the Sidelines

First of America says it is being unfairly singled out. In a statement, the bank said, "Since First of America is not involved in this situation in any way, we will continue to have no comment other than to hope the situation is resolved in a mutually agreeable manner and with all speed."

The bank also took out a full-page ad in Decatur's Sunday newspaper, the Herald & Review, saying, "We have neither the right nor the ability to influence the outcome of this dispute."

The Staley executive's seat on the local bank board was not the only reason First of America was chosen. Labor officials also complain that James Wogsland, vice chairman of Caterpillar Inc., is a director of First of America Bank Corp. The $20 billion-asset holding company based in Kalamazoo, Mich., is active in the heavily unionized, industrial Midwest.

Tie-In to Caterpillar

The Industrial Workers of America said it wants 11,000 members of United Auto Workers affiliates in Peoria and Decatur, which have been fighting Caterpillar, to join the action against First of America.

Although it remains to be seen whether organizers can deliver on their threats, they warned the boycott may spread to other parts of the country.

The food-processing giant Archer Daniels Midland Co., also based in Decatur, owns 7% of Tate & Lyle stock. ADM also controls Hickory Point Bank and Trust in Decatur. The family of ADM's chairman, Dwayne O. Andreas, controls National City Bancorp of Minneapolis, which recently agreed to be acquired by Metropolitan Financial Corp., also of Minneapolis.

"We plan to zero in on institutions that provide the financial support network for Staley," said Mr. Rogers.

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