AKRON — Two former members of United Steelworkers Local 2 in Akron have brought unfair labor practice charges against the local for actions against them after they resigned from the union during last fall´s Goodyear strike.
The complaint, brought by Goodyear employee Frank C. Steen III and Scott Lauby, an employee of Viox Services, a facility support services firm that contracts with the tire maker, was filed May 31 with the National Labor Relations Board office in Cleveland. Steen was one of three Goodyear workers who resigned from Local 2 on Nov. 21 of last year, while Lauby resigned in December, according to the complaint.
More than 15,000 USW workers at 16 Goodyear sites in the U.S. and Canada struck at company locations for 86 days from early October through late December.
The complaint alleges that after the Goodyear employees resigned from the local and crossed the picket line, they were harassed, fined and charged union dues. Local union members made a threatening phone call and "verbally threatened and coerced" one of the workers at his home on several occasions using a bullhorn.
After the strike ended, the local brought "internal charges" against Lauby, Steen and the other Goodyear employees who resigned from the local and in February held a hearing before a union trial committee. The committee found the Goodyear employees-not Lauby-guilty of the charges and levied fines of $620 against each, the NLRB complaint said.
The "accused" employees didn´t attend the hearing.
Local 2 President Pete Stamich didn´t detail what the specific charges against the former members were. The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, a legal aid organization that specializes in fighting compulsory union activity and is helping Steen in the case, claims the employees were fined for "refusing to walk off the job during a union-ordered strike" and for "allegedly informing others of their legal right to refrain from formal union membership."
Stamich said the fines have not been collected, and likely wouldn´t be unless "they decide to become members again."
Since January, however, the union also continued to collect dues from the former members through their paychecks, the right-to-work organization said.
Stamich had no specific comment on the NLRB complaint other than that the charges are unfounded. The workers who crossed the picket line to return to the Akron plant were the first to do so in Local 2´s history, he said.
The case is scheduled to be heard by an administrative law judge of the NLRB on Aug. 15.
The National Right to Work Foundation also got involved in a 2004 USW organization campaign at a Goodyear tire cord plant in Asheboro, N.C. After a card-check election of the USW to represent the work force in Asheboro, a group of employees there filed NLRB charges against the union claiming it had coerced the employees to vote for it. Later, the group asked for a decertification election.
The USW in January 2005 announced an agreement with the NLRB to suspend its representation with the hourly employees. But in a secret-ballot election that June, the Asheboro hourly employees again voted in favor of the union´s representation by a 173-147 count.
Tom Conway, USW International vice president, said past experiences with the National Right to Work Foundation have required organizations like the Steelworkers to "expend resources to respond to
charges that most times are totally frivolous." In Asheboro, the right-to-work organization delayed the choices of a "vast majority by filing objections to the process on behalf of a few workers," he said.