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Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Workers accuse union of unfair practices

Former members of United Steelworkers Local 2 who crossed picket lines in the union's 86-day strike last year against Goodyear have filed an unfair labor practice complaint against the union. The complaint filed with the National Labor Relations Board said the local fined the workers $620 apiece while also continuing to collect dues from their paychecks even though they are no longer union members.

"We feel we were within our rights to do what we did," said Jack Hefner, vice president of USW Local 2, which has offices on Kelly Avenue and about 470 members. "As far as we are concerned, it's over with."

The NLRB has scheduled a hearing Aug. 21 before an administrative law judge in Cleveland.

Frank Steen III, a Canal Fulton resident, said in the complaint that USW Local 2 held a trial committee hearing on internal union charges and fined him and others $620 apiece. Scott Lauby of North Canton, an employee of Goodyear contractor Viox Services, said in the complaint that he resigned during the strike from Local 2 and went back to work for the facility support services firm.

The NLRB complaint said the workers were within their rights to resign from the union and return to work. Since they resigned, the union "has been interfering with, restraining and coercing employees," the complaint said.

Steen and Lauby could not be reached for comment.

Steen was one of three tire builders who work at Goodyear's Akron factory who resigned from the union and returned to the factory in November. They are believed to be the first members in Local 2's history to cross picket lines in the strike that involved thousands of Steelworkers at Goodyear's unionized North American plants.

The tire builders said they needed to go back to work because they had run out of money and needed to support their families. Goodyear staffed its plants with salaried employees and temporary workers during the strike.

Steen and the others said that union members harassed them at their homes, including shouting at them through bullhorns, after they went back to work.

Union officials in return said the workers crossed over after accepting union-provided food vouchers and gasoline cards while not making good use of other union assistance, including job placement services.

The fines have not been collected, said Hefner at Local 2.

"There's been no attempt to collect it," he said.

The union lacks a legal mechanism to force the former members to pay, Hefner said. Steen and the others were asked to come before the trial committee but refused, he said.

Steen and Lauby are working with the National Right to Work Foundation, a Springfield, Va., organization near Washington, D.C., that fights compulsory union membership.