Akron paper admits mistake p.10

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By: Ken Liebenskind Roderic Paulk, a circulation rack manager at the Akron (Ohio) Beacon Journal, who filed a complaint against the paper for threatening to fire him for not joining the Teamsters union, will drop the complaint if the paper writes a favorable article about him, he says.
He also wants the paper to institute courses that inform managers and employees about employee rights not to join unions and resign from them at will. "My stance is I want to make sure I'm the only one who ever has to go through this again," he told E&P.
Last week was a tough one for Paulk. He says on Monday, his supervisor, Debbie Jubera, threatened him with dismissal. "She told me if I didn't join the union I'd be terminated because of the collective bargaining agreement. She had no choice."
Next, Paulk says, he met with Dave Williams, the vice president of the local Teamsters union, who also told him he'd have to join. After Paulk refused, Williams told him he'd lost his job. "I left the meeting with the understanding I was terminated and off the schedule," Paulk says.
Paulk then contacted the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation in Washington, which provided him with a lawyer. The lawyer told Paulk it was illegal to force employees to join unions. They decided to file a complaint against the paper and the Teamsters union with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). It was filed last Tuesday.
The Beacon Journal admits it threatened Paulk but changed its tone quickly after realizing its mistake. "A low-level supervisor in the circulation department told Paulk he had to join the union," says John S. Murphy, the Beacon Journal's director of communication. "But after the supervisor found out it's not true, we contacted the employee to inform him that he didn't need to join."
Now Murphy says the paper is "on his side." He explains, "We work diligently to comply with labor laws and we recognize that people have a right to work if they're members of unions or not."
But the paper's new position may not insulate it from the complaint. Aurliano Sanchez-Arago, a spokesman for the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, says the fact that Paulk's job is safe makes the injunction moot, but the complaint can proceed because "the violation still occurred." He wants to use the case to protect other workers. "We hope to make sure employee rights are respected and upheld and that other employees at the paper and throughout Ohio and other states are protected."
According to numerous Supreme Court and NLRB decisions, including the Beck case, workers may not be forced to join unions and pay full dues. Instead, they can refrain from joining and pay dues that cover the cost of collective bargaining.
Paulk says he was asked to pay $222 to join the union after he was hired in 1997 and agreed to pay because he didn't know he had the right to refuse. He says he was asked to pay it again last December by a new shop steward and agreed again. But when he was asked to fill out the application last week, he refused because he no longer wanted to join.
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?(copyright: Editor & Publisher January 30, 1999) [Caption]

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