Steelworkers Win — Union Prosecuted

Thanks to the efforts of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, workers at an Ohio Goodyear Tire plant who suffered a wave of harassment from the union hierarchy can live life easier. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has agreed to prosecute the United Steel Workers of America (USWA) union for hitting nonunion workers with illegal retaliatory strike fines and waging an ugly campaign of threats, recriminations, and hate mail.

With help from attorneys at the National Right to Work Foundation, Goodyear employee Frank C. Steen III originally filed federal charges against the USWA union after officials levied fines of $620 each against several employees for refusing to walk off the job during a union-ordered strike. Union officials imposed the fines on each of the workers after ordering them to attend an internal “kangaroo” court (which the employees refused to attend) for continuing to do their jobs. Union officials also “accused” the employees of allegedly informing others of their legal right to refrain from formal union membership.

Between October 2006 and January 2007, USWA officials ordered employees to walk off the job at the Goodyear plant. However, in order to support their families, Steen and his coworkers resigned from formal union membership in November and exercised their right to return to work.

After USWA officials issued the unlawful fines, Steen filed federal charges against USWA union officials because they disregarded the employees’ November resignations and unlawfully continued to deduct full union dues from their paychecks.

After his resignation, Steen received approximately 10 pieces of hate mail from union officials. Similarly, on two different occasions, USWA union operatives shouted through bullhorns outside Steen’s residence, calling him a “low life” for refusing to abandon his job. In a separate incident, another union-strike supporter threatened one of Steen’s coworkers over the phone that he would be fined for “everything he made and then some” and would be fired once the strike was over.

Union officials want Frank Steen and his coworkers to shut up and pay up. This case shows the contempt that union officials often have for employees who exercise independent judgment and who work to support their families during an unpopular strike.

According to the NLRB Regional Director, the case will be heard before an Administrative Law Judge on August 21, 2007. The order for an official hearing comes after Goodyear saw a USWA union-ordered walkout of over 15,000 of its employees across its 16 plants in North America for several months.

Unfortunately, as long as Ohio workers labor without the protections of a Right to Work law — which makes union affiliation and dues payment strictly voluntary — abuses of this nature will surely continue throughout the Buckeye State.