AKRON—Law enforcement officials arrested a dozen Goodyear tire plant employees the week of Dec. 13 for the sale or possession of illegal drugs on company property. On Dec. 13, Shawnee County, Kan., sheriff's deputies arrested seven company workers at Goodyear's Topeka, Kan., facility, where the company employs about 2,000. Four employees were arrested on felony drug warrants and three on misdemeanor drug possession charges.
Two days later, Obion County, Tenn., authorities arrested five Goodyear workers and issued nine warrants for employees on drug sale/possession charges at the company's Union City, Tenn., tire plant.
Goodyear employs about 3,000 in Union City.
Investigations at both plants, involving undercover officers posing as workers, were prompted by Goodyear, a spokesman said. The company received tips and complaints from employees that drug sales were taking place, and following its own observations at the two locations, management decided to call the authorities, he said.
Undercover officers started an operation under which they made several drug buys during their time at the Topeka plant, said Shawnee County Sheriff's Capt. Rick Hladky.
Goodyear's spokesman said the arrests send "a strong message that those types of illegal activities won't be tolerated in our facilities. It also goes toward providing a safe workplace for all our employees. They have that expectation and they deserve it."
Two years ago, a Goodyear employee in Topeka died when he fell 60 feet from a factory rooftop, said Wil Leiker, president of United Steelworkers Local 307, which staffs the Topeka factory. An autopsy revealed traces of illegal drugs in the worker's blood.
The seven employees arrested in Kansas are out on bond, according to Mr. Leiker. The suspects are all Local 307 members.
"We don't want to see drugs in the workplace or anywhere else," he said. "They're a detriment to our safety and health. But the workers deserve their day in court as part of the judicial process."
The company will determine discipline following the outcome of the charges, Mr. Leiker said. The seven employees have been suspended pending further legal action.
The other three arrests were made following a deputies' search of the plant and workers' lockers with drug-detecting dogs. This is the first time undercover officers investigated drug-related activities at a Goodyear plant, the spokesman said.
The company was the first major employer in Shawnee County to enlist his department's aid in an internal drug operation, Mr. Hladky said.
"We would love it if more companies did it," he said. "It's part of our job to protect the public, including within the workplace. A situation like this is dangerous for everybody."