Longtime employee of paper products company exercised right to leave union and stop dues deductions, Steelworkers union now demands her firing
Fox Cities, WI (February 16, 2023) – Greenville, WI, resident Kerri Wenske has just filed federal charges against United Steelworkers Local 2-1279 union officials at her Essity workplace in Neenah, WI. Wenske, who has worked for decades at Essity, maintains that Steelworkers officials ordered the company to fire her after she exercised her right to end her union membership and cut off dues deductions. Wenske filed her charges at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) with free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.
Wenske argues that Steelworkers union officials are violating her rights under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), which ensures that American private sector employees can abstain from any or all union activities. Wisconsin’s Right to Work law also forbids union officials from forcing Wisconsin workers to join or pay dues to a union as a condition of employment. In non-Right to Work states like neighboring Illinois, union chiefs can have workers fired for refusal to pay for union “representation” they don’t support.
Steelworkers President Hurls Termination Threat at Veteran Employee Who No Longer Supports Union
According to Wenske’s charge, she submitted a letter to Steelworkers president Bill Kilishek in early February in which she resigned her union membership and requested that all dues deductions from her paycheck stop, as is her right under the state’s Right to Work law. Because the dues deduction authorization form she signed allows for an immediate cessation of deductions upon resignation of her union membership as permitted by long-established NLRB precedent, Wenske’s resignation letter should be sufficient to end both her membership and any flow of union dues from her paycheck.
However, Kilishek told Wenske shortly after receiving her letter “that she would be terminated from her employment based on her decision to resign her union membership,” Wenske’s charge states. Afterward, a union agent from Steelworkers International even showed Wenske a copy of a letter written by the union ordering Essity to fire Wenske for resigning from the union.
“The Employer has yet to act on this request,” says Wenske’s charge.
Steelworkers Union Has Recent Streak of Employee Rights Violations
Wenske’s case is the latest in a number of recent cases in which Foundation staff attorneys have defended workers from Steelworkers union officials’ coercive practices. Just last month, metal workers at Latrobe Specialty Metals/Franklin Carpenter Technology in Franklin, PA, successfully voted Steelworkers officials out of their facility with free Foundation legal aid, after Steelworkers chiefs tried to trap workers under a contract they voted against twice. Also last month, Foundation attorneys spurred the NLRB’s prosecution of Steelworkers Local 832 for illegally seizing months of dues from Kentucky employee Melva Hernandez.
“Steelworkers union officials are continuing their nationwide campaign of punishing workers who disagree with the union’s agenda,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “That Steelworkers chiefs tried to get Ms. Wenske – a veteran Essity employee – fired merely because she no longer supports the union demonstrates just how little they care about the free choice rights of workers and winning over employee support voluntarily.”
“Essity officials should not become complicit in Steelworkers bosses’ illegal scheme, and Foundation attorneys will fight this and any further attempts to violate Ms. Wenske’s right to abstain from union activity,” Mix added.
The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation is a nonprofit, charitable organization providing free legal aid to employees whose human or civil rights have been violated by compulsory unionism abuses. The Foundation, which can be contacted toll-free at 1-800-336-3600, assists thousands of employees in about 200 cases nationwide per year.