Before Johnnie Steele started working for Appleton electric in July 2006, Steele had been in out of prison for over 3 decades. In mid 2006 Steele was put on work release in the Community Correction Center (CCS).
At the time CCS sent Steele to Staff Works, a temp agent known for hiring at risk people. After working at Quad Graphics for a short time, Steele was sent to Appleton Electric, a foundry in South Milwaukee. Steele worked at Appleton Electric for 90 days as a temporary employee and was promoted and was hired as a permanent employee.
Shortly after Steele was hired, he was released and went to live at Hope Street, a community home for people in transition of getting their lives together. But right after he was released from Community Correction Center at 54 years old he found out that Sheriff Sergeant Martha Freeman at, CCC, was his sister.
She told him they have the same father and introduced him to his family and later he joined their the church she pastors Alpha Omega Ministries on 27th & Atkinson.
After release from incarceration, Steele was confident and happy because he had his faith in God and just knew he could stay on the straight and narrow path of righteousness. This man said that even when he was working 2nd shift 10 hours a day in a South Milwaukee foundry.
The last bus on his route home had already left when Steele had got off work. He had no way to get home so for 3 weeks he literally slept in the company locker room of the plant until the busses started running at 5am the next morning.
Steele was working to save enough money to purchase a 1981 Pontiac Phoenix and he knew he had found his first real job.
After 4 years of being employed with Appleton Electric, on February 14, 2011 Steele was terminated for knowingly falsifying a company document. Steele said, “ I guess company supervisors thought because of my age I could not perform the task as quickly as I did therefore I must have misrepresented the documents. Steele was just devastated and sought help from my Glass, Pottery, Plastics & Allied Workers International Union (GPPAW) Local 6-B union representative, Jerry Cotton.
Steele stated, “The only thing I had known about a union is when he and his co worker, Earl Miller, walked in the LaborFest 2011 parade with SEIU to se the President Barak Obama. The LaborFest tickets were given to me by Wendell Harris of the NAACP. “I knew that was paying union dues but I never needed any union assistance and I certainly didn’t attend meetings until I was terminated.”
“I began to attend union meetings and learned a lot about workers right. And, keep in mind my personal drama is going on in the midst of Scott Walker stripping public unions of their bargaining power. but my faith was strong and my union representative seem to truly be concerned.
On April 6 Johnnie had his hearing initiated by the union appeal, he sat patiently while Glass, Molders, Pottery, Plastics and Allied Workers International Local 6-B union representative, Jerry Cotton presented case to the Appleton Plant company officials, manufacturing supervisor David Devalkenaere, plant manager Mike Mikelonis and human resource representative Neal Jergan. After Johnnie sat patiently for hours his union representative, Cotton, came out and said, “You start back to work on April 11, 2011.”
At that hearing, Steele indicated, I learned that civil rights are union rights and union rights are civil rights. Worker rights should be a constitutional right. I so glad that Martin Luther King fought not only for my civil rights, but also for my right to organize and belong to a union.