US: Intimidated Goodyear workers fight back

By just-auto.com editorial team | 21 August 2007

Goodyear Tyre and Rubber employees in the United States have won a settlement against a steelworkers union for alleged illegal retaliatory strike fines and intimidation, according to the National Right to Work Legal Defence Foundation.

In a statement, the foundation said union officials must retract hundred of dollars in illegal fines and promise to stop "using bullhorns to intimidate" dissenting employees in order to avoid prosecution.

It added that, to avoid impending federal prosecution by the National Labour Relations Board (NLRB), a local union backed down from its unlawful attempts to fine several of its employees $US620 each for refusing to abandon their jobs during a union-ordered strike.

The settlement won by National Right to Work Foundation attorneys requires United Steel Workers of America (USWA) Local [branch] 2L union officials to stop threatening employees who are not formal union members with internal union fines, to discontinue holding internal union trials used to discipline such employees, and to cease coercing and intimidating employees who choose not to walk off the job during a union-ordered strike.

The settlement also requires notices to be posted in visible areas throughout the Goodyear plant advising employees of their rights, the statement added.

USWA union officials also must stop "using bullhorns to intimidate" and threaten retaliation against employees at their residences, according to the settlement. USWA union officials must now withdraw the illegal strike fines levied against Goodyear employees as well as expunge all internal union disciplinary records on file.

Foundation lawyers helped Frank Steen file federal charges after union officials targeted him with illegal retaliatory strike fines, threats, hate mail, and other recriminations. Having issued a formal complaint in June 2007, the NLRB scheduled a trial for today, 21 August.

"The outright contempt that these thuggish union officials have for employees who refuse to toe the union line is despicable," said Stefan Gleason, vice president of the National Right to Work Foundation.

"Such bully tactics underscore the Buckeye state's need for a right to work law that would make union affiliation and dues payment strictly voluntary."

Between October 2006 and January 2007, USWA officials ordered over 15,000 Goodyear employees across 16 plants in North America to walk off the job. 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 resigning, Steen and his coworkers were ordered to appear at an internal 'kangaroo' court (which the employees refused to attend), where union officials imposed the fines on the employees for continuing to do their jobs. USWA union officials also sought to retaliate against the workers for informing others of their legal right to refrain from formal union membership.

While at work during the strike, Steen received approximately 10 pieces of hate mail from union officials. 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. And 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, the National Right to Work Legal Defence Foundation claimed.