MADISON, Wis.—The United Auto Workers Local 833 chapter is worse than an unwanted house guest: It can’t take a hint, and it won’t take no for an answer.
In a burst of big labor thuggery, Local 833 has treated employees who decline union membership to a steady stream of harassment punctuated by not-so-subtle threats.
The union has done so despite Wisconsin’s status as a right-to-work state, where employees are free to choose—free of harassment and intimidation—whether they want to join a union.
Josh Herr, a Kohler Co. employee, says he has been repeatedly pressured by union leadership since he began his job in the plumbing fixture manufacturer’s pottery plant nearly eight months ago.
Herr on multiple occasions told Local 833’s steward and its president that he didn’t see any value in unions, that he didn’t want to automatically turn over a portion of his hard-earned paycheck to a group he doesn’t agree with.
The union chiefs didn’t care for Herr’s answers. He was told that if he didn’t join, the union couldn’t protect him from harassment.
The message wasn’t lost on Herr: Join or the union wouldn’t protect him from the union.
Tim Tayloe, Local 833’s president, called him at work and threatened him while he was doing his job, Herr claims.
“He said, ‘We really don’t like when people don’t join the union,’” Herr said. “He told me there were two other people in the pottery building who didn’t join the union and that nothing good happened to them.”
“He said, ‘I don’t want anything bad happening because you’re not joining,’” Herr added.
Herr found a sign on the back of the plant punch clock praising 19 Kohler workers who had started paying union dues. Each name was accompanied by a gold star.
In asterisks, the sign advised that “[s]ome scabs have decided to start paying dues again, they have a gold star after their names.”
At the bottom, written in red: “Pottery member that refuses to join the Union.” Joshua Herr, machine cast operator, the union sign boldly stated, is “Not a Union Brother.”
Tayloe accused Herr of lying, or at least “blowing this out of proportion.” He claims he didn’t authorize the sign, and neither did his union.
“Whatever he’s up to, I hope he’s having fun. None of that happened,” the local president told Maclver News.
And regarding his little talk with Herr, Tayloe said in a statement that he is “constantly walking the floor of the plant to have discussions with people from the hourly workforce.”
“These discussions include the benefits of union membership and union representation. As part of these discussions, the benefits of being a union member are discussed quite frequently,” he added.
Yes, yes, the benefits. Like the benefit of your money or your life? The benefit of not being harassed and intimidated by a union that insists on representing you? Those kinds of benefits?
Herr’s problems with the union underscore the fact that the fight for worker freedom isn’t over simply because a state enacts a right-to-work law, as Wisconsin did in 2015.
Bullies are bullies, no matter what the laws or rules say. Unions are replete with bullies who target dissenters, anyone who declines the “benefits” of membership. They do so under the premise that workers who chose not to pay union dues are getting a free ride on the “benefits” bus. It’s a protection racket that employees like Herr aren’t buying.
Kohler Co. has directed union management to the first page of its labor management agreement, which makes clear the stunts the union chiefs have been pulling are prohibited.
The bullying has stopped, for now.
Herr, at 24, has thick skin. He can handle the union games. He says he went public with his experiences because he knows there are other Kohler employees who have simply given in to the union because they didn’t want to deal with the aggravation, the harassment.
This time, Herr wants to make sure the union bosses finally get the message.