PITTSBURGH (Feb. 25, 2000) — It´s been a long, cold winter for two United Steelworkers of America locals that have been on strike at tire plants owned by Titan International Inc.
The union and Titan haven´t negotiated since last July. But that doesn´t mean the USWA is through fighting the Quincy, Ill.-based tire and wheel maker—or its leader, President and CEO Maurice "Morry" Taylor Jr.
The USWA released a 43-page report Feb. 16 detailing the company´s alleged mishandling of the strikes at Titan tire operations in Des Moines, Iowa, and Natchez, Miss.; Mr. Taylor´s record with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency; and Titan´s financial and legal problems since the Des Moines strike began May 1, 1998.
The report, titled, Bad for Business: Titan CEO Morry Taylor Sets a Course for Disaster, will be distributed broadly, including to Titan´s board and shareholders, said Tom Johnson, a USWA communications technician.
Mr. Taylor said he´s seen all the report´s information before in union newsletters and lost interest long ago.
"Who cares? Let them write what they want to write," Mr. Taylor said. "If they´ve got the time and money to spend putting that together, why don´t they come back to work? No one´s keeping them out except themselves."
The union presented the report in Des Moines Feb. 16 and in Quincy two days later. It plans to do so in Natchez and Clinton, Tenn., the site of a non-union Titan tire plant, the week of Feb. 21, Mr. Johnson said.
"Our position is that the story about Taylor and Titan must get out," he said. "It demonstrates what we´ve been saying since the labor disputes began about the way this company operates."
John Peno, president of USWA Local 164 in Des Moines, said the union has tried to contact Titan board members and shareholders to talk to them about Mr. Taylor and the way he runs the company.
"No one´s chosen to meet with us, but maybe this will be an eye-opener," he said. "We believe Morry has a fiduciary responsibility to his shareholders."
The report details the two ongoing strikes; alleged omissions in Security and Exchange Commission filings, especially regarding Titan´s takeover of the Condere Corp. plant in Natchez; several pending lawsuits and labor law charges; and the slower-than-expected development of Titan´s new tire factory in Brownsville, Texas.
Mr. Taylor said the union´s words won´t help its striking union members get their jobs back.
"They said that the deal with (construction machinery manufacturer) Caterpillar (Inc.) wasn´t going anywhere, and it is," he said. "We´ve struggled with two unions on strike and a weak agricultural market, but that will change. And they´re still not working."
Ultimately, the USWA wants to see its workers and the company out from under Mr. Taylor´s thumb.
"If Titan does not change its existing management team. . .the company will likely be destroyed by Mr. Taylor´s ego," the report said.
As for the future of the locals in Des Moines and Natchez, where USWA Local 303 struck Sept. 15, 1998, Mr. Peno said Mr. Taylor has told him and the media that he´s done meeting with them. Most Local 164 members have found work in and around Des Moines, but haven´t lost hope of returning to their jobs at Titan, he said.