SALEM, Va.-Nearly 800 workers at Yokohama Tire Corp.'s Salem factory went on strike July 23, bringing to 8,000 the number of United Rubber Workers striking four companies. The walkout is the largest URW work stoppage since 1976, when 70,000 union members staged a four-month strike against Goodyear, Firestone, Uniroyal and B.F. Goodrich.
The only discernible movement thus far in any of the work stoppages was at the former Pirelli Armstrong Tire Co. plant in Des Moines, Iowa. There, the union and the plant's new owner-Titan Wheel International Inc.-are nearing an agreement whereby workers would return as soon as Aug. 15 under the old contract and begin negotiations on a new pact, said Local 164 Treasurer Michael D. Chance.
A few details still need to be ironed out, he said, declining to elaborate. A Titan official said a meeting was scheduled for Aug. 5.
No signs are evident, however, that the end is near at any of the other walkouts, which cover more than 1,000 workers at two remaining Pirelli Armstrong plants; 4,200 URW members at five Bridgestone/Firestone locations; 1,640 workers at the Dunlop Tire Corp. plant in Huntsville, Ala.; and 758 union members at the Yokohama Tire factory in Salem.
URW Local 1023 cited a number of reasons for rejecting Yokohama's request for a 90-day contract extension and beginning its strike immediately upon the contract's expiration. One of the main issues involved a proposed contract change that would require 150 more employees to work 12-hour weekend shifts, said Local 1023 Treasurer Gene D. Jenkins.
Currently, the company has three shifts that work eight hours Monday through Friday, and then has a fourth shift that works 12 hours on Saturday and Sunday and also comes in eight hours two days during the week. The new provision would allow the company to have 24-hour coverage, seven days a week.
The URW said other issues include:
A request to increase deductibles on medical insurance and raise employees' out-of-pocket expenses;
The company's refusal to secure vacation coverage for weekend workers, forcing employees to find their own replacements from the weekday crew; and
Yokohama's request to have part of the cost-of-living allowance payments tied to productivity goals set by the company.
Mr. Jenkins said the union in the past tried to follow the basics of the master contract, but doesn't ``expect to get everything.''
Yokohama said the changes are needed for the firm to remain competitive, a reason also cited by the three other tire makers facing strikes.
``We're not able to follow the master contract,'' a Yokohama spokeswoman said. ``We must negotiate what's best for Yokohama. We presented what we thought was fair.''
The tire maker also noted that it has invested more than $120 million in improvements and expansions since purchasing the former Mohawk Rubber Co. plant in 1989, resulting in the hiring of nearly 300 new employees.
No talks have been scheduled.
At Pirelli Armstrong, the company allegedly placed ads in local papers looking for replacement workers at its Nashville, Tenn., plant, said Local 670 President Stanley W. Johnson. That strike started July 15.
The ads didn't mention Pirelli Armstrong by name, Mr. Johnson said, but a company employee told him Pirelli Armstrong had placed the ads.
No comment was available from the tire maker.
The president of the URW local at the Pirelli Armstrong unit in Hanford, Calif., has not seen any such ads in papers in that area.
Also, Dunlop confirmed it has hired some temporary workers in Huntsville, Ala., where workers walked off the job June 21, but declined to say how many.
No new talks were scheduled at Dunlop or at Bridgestone/Firestone, which was struck July 12.