AKRON—About 15,000 union workers have struck 10 Goodyear locations after failing to reach agreement on job security, work rules, and wages and benefits. Nearly 12,300 workers covered under the United Steelworkers of America's master contract with Goodyear staged a walkout immediately after the two parties' 1994 labor pact expired at midnight on April 19. It was the first strike at the nine Goodyear locations covered by the contract since 1976.
Two days later, about 2,500 production and maintenance workers—including up to 300 non-union laborers—struck at Goodyear's Fayetteville, N.C., plant.
Combined, the work stoppages have ``placed at risk'' nearly half of Goodyear's North American tire production in addition to some hose, belt, and molded and extruded goods output, said analyst Harry Millis of Fundamental Research Inc.
The Fayetteville facility, part of Goodyear's Kelly-Springfield Tire Co. division, is the firm's largest organized North American tire factory. Steelworkers at the unit had worked day to day since their pact expired Sept. 8. The walkout, which followed two rejected tentative agreements, marked the first at the plant since the local union was chartered in 1972.
Although staged within days of each other, a union spokesman maintained that the Fayetteville work stoppage is ``completely unrelated'' to the strike at the master contract locations.
Goodyear officials sought a temporary restraining order to end the work stoppage in Fayetteville, but were denied April 22.
``We believe the strike called by United Steelworkers of America Local 959 (which staffs the North Carolina unit) is in violation of the collective bargaining agreement between the company and the union,'' a Kelly-Springfield spokesman said.
``Kelly-Springfield has made a fair contract offer to negotiators of Local 959 and we believe this work stoppage runs counter to the best interests of Fayetteville workers and their families,'' he said. ``We are very disappointed in the court's decision and are reviewing our options.''
``If this (strike) goes on longer than two or three weeks, Goodyear could lose market share. And that would hurt both the company and the union,'' Mr. Millis said.
``There are two losers in a strike such as this, no winners—except perhaps Bridgestone/Firestone (Inc.), Michelin (North America Inc.) and Continental General (Tire Inc.),'' Mr. Millis said.
Goodyear continues to operate the 10 plants, a company spokesman said, declining to elaborate. Local union officials said the firm is using management and other salaried personnel to run the factories at levels far below capacity.
The struck locations include:
Akron area—1,000 union workers (primarily involved in race tire and mold manufacturing);
Gadsden, Ala.—1,850 (passenger, light truck tires);
Danville, Va.—1,800 (truck/bus, aircraft tires);
Topeka, Kan.—2,600 (truck/bus, farm, off-the-road tires);
Union City, Tenn.—2,600 (passenger, light truck tires);
Fayetteville—2,200 union members (passenger and light truck tires).
``Unfortunately, the company's last offer was regressive in some areas and did not meet the needs of our members in the area of wages and benefits,'' a USWA spokesman said. ``It appeared to contain many of the provisions seen in the recent Bridgestone/Firestone settlement, which was achieved only after 28 months of (dispute).''
Goodyear and union officials declined to elaborate on sticking points in negotiations, which began at the master level March 6.
Samir G. Gibara, Goodyear chairman, CEO and president, said at a press conference following the firm's April 14 annual meeting that his firm had higher worker compensation costs than its two biggest foes—Bridgestone/Firestone and Michelin.
``North America is Goodyear's home market,'' the spokesman said. ``The company has no intention of mortgaging its future by agreeing to a contract that would widen a contractual disadvantage with its competitors.
``The company's final offer would improve what already is recognized as one of the best compensation packages in the industry,'' he said. ``The union's position would restrict the company's flexibility to operate its facilities more efficiently.''
USWA officials, which selected Goodyear as the pattern setter for this round of talks, continue to negotiate in Cincinnati with the company after a one-day cessation on April 20.
Meanwhile, about 4,340 union workers at Uniroyal Goodrich Tire Co.'s three U.S. union units continue to work day to day under the provisions of their 1994 master agreement. That contract also expired at midnight April 19.
Union officials at the three Uniroyal Goodrich tire plants covered by the master pact—Fort Wayne, Ind.; and Opelika and Tuscaloosa, Ala.—said their negotiations in Knoxville, Tenn., are at a near standstill as officials from both sides study closely the Goodyear situation.