JACKSON, Miss.—A federal court has rejected the United Steelworkers of America's appeal of the sale of Condere Corp. to Titan Tire Corp. However, Titan and two USWA locals may be making some progress in contract talks to resolve an ongoing strike at the tire maker's Des Moines, Iowa, plant.
The U.S. District Court for the southern district of Mississippi disallowed the union's objection to the liquidation plan of Condere, the bankrupt company whose assets were sold to Titan International Inc. in September 1998. The ruling should allow payment to Condere's creditors to commence, according to Titan.
The tire maker expected the ruling to be in its favor, said Maurice Taylor Jr., Titan International president and CEO. "All (the appeal) did was delay paying our creditors and employees, including some of the union's own people who were still owed 401(k) payments," he said.
The union hasn't decided whether or not to appeal the decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit in New Orleans, a USWA spokesman said.
Bankruptcy court, rather than the U.S. District Court, will make the final decision on whether creditors can be paid, the spokesman added.
The union had appealed the decision shortly after Titan took over operation of Condere's Natchez, Miss., tire plant, saying Titan was not a "good faith purchaser" of Condere.
A bankruptcy court hearing was scheduled for July 9 in Jackson, Miss., on the Condere reorganization plan.
Titan said it employs 220 non-union hourly workers at the Natchez facility and plans to increase its work force there. Shortly after Titan assumed control of the operation—renamed Titan Tire of Natchez—USWA Local 303 went on strike.
"While Titan has created job opportunities for men and women in Natchez," he said in a prepared statement, "the United Steelworkers have persisted in continuing to strike to the detriment of the working men and women."
As for negotiations, talks held in Kansas City the week of June 14 were somewhat positive, said John Peno, president of Local 164 at Titan's Des Moines, Iowa, tire plant, which has been on strike there since spring 1998.
The two sides communicated through phone calls and e-mail after that, and Mr. Peno said some issues may be decided in the near future, including outside contracting, successorship and overtime.
"It's the best movement we've had in the last few rounds," he said.
But Mr. Taylor had a different take on negotiations.
"The longer they stay out, the more we keep getting production up," he said. "The leaders there need to start thinking about their people."