WASHINGTON-Rubber manufacturers, tire dealers and retreaders haven't yet been affected in any major way by the nationwide International Brotherhood of Teamsters strike. That could change, however, if the strike continues indefinitely, which looked very possible as this issue went to press April 14.
The strike against 22 trucking companies began at midnight April 6, when the National Master Freight Agreement expired. Approximately 75,000 truckers, dock workers and mechanics walked off their jobs.
Part-time drivers and intermodal (truck and rail) transport are the major issues behind the strike. Teamsters claim both will cause job loss among union drivers. The companies, however, insist both are necessary to reduce costs and neither will cause any Teamsters to lose their jobs.
Officials of the international union met with representatives of 18 of the companies April 8 to discuss a settlement based on the companies accepting an eventual master agreement. Those talks proved abortive, however.
The union has not even approached the four other companies, including the three industry leaders-Roadway Express, Consolidated Freightways and Yellow Freight. At presstime, no further negotiations were scheduled.
Of all the segments of the tire industry, retreaders stand to get hurt worst by the strike. Not only could shipments of casings, tread rubber and finished retreads be blocked, but retreaders depend heavily on continuing business from trucking fleets, which run mostly on retreads.
``Obviously, if this continues, it will hurt our business,'' said Marvin Bozarth, executive director of the American Retreaders' Association. ``As far as shipments go, there won't be too much effect, since a lot of retreading companies have their own fleets or use independents. But lack of tire wear in trucking fleets is a problem.''
Ray Carr Tires Inc., Harrisonburg, Va., has a major account with one trucking firm that is unionized, according to Larry Ezell, senior vice president of sales and distribution. Other than that, however, Ray Carr's retreading operations aren't being hurt very much.
``We have raw materials coming in, since we run 13 tractor-trailers in six states,'' Mr. Ezell said. ``Only about 20 to 25 percent of the trucking industry is unionized, which means 75 to 80 percent of (U.S.) trucks are running the rubber off same as always.''
Roadway operates its own tire retreading facility in Columbus, Ohio. Production is uninterrupted there, according to Peggy Fisher, president of Roadway Tire.
``We have taken precautions for the strike and stockpiled the casings so we can keep production going,'' Ms. Fisher said. Roadway Tire produces about 120 retreads per day, she added.
The National Tire Dealers & Retreaders Association has an internal staff task force to monitor the strike and its effects, according to NTDRA Communications Director Charles D. ``Tony'' Hylton. ``If there is any impact, we will get the information out to our members,'' he said.
Ralph Schissler, president of Atlantic Tire in Baltimore, said the strike will have to last at least three weeks before his operations are affected.
``Our inventory is completely full right now, and we have 300 tires in a warehouse,'' Mr. Schissler said. ``In another 30 days, however, we'll have to reorder, and once we're into spring, all business tends to pick up.''
The only problem Atlantic Tire has experienced so far is with its adjusted tires, which the dealership usually has sent back via Yellow Freight. But this is more of an annoyance than a problem, Mr. Schissler said.
Nor has the strike had much impact on U.S. tire makers, either in obtaining raw materials or shipping finished products.
Ninety-five percent of Goodyear's incoming and outgoing shipments are unaffected by the strike, said Rick Adante, company vice president of materials management, in a prepared statement.
Spokesmen for Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. and Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. also said the strike was not harming them.