MORRISON, Tenn.—United Steelworkers of America Local 1155, which staffs Bridgestone/Firestone Inc.'s radial truck and bus tire facility in Warren County, Tenn., rejected a six-year contract offer from the company July 21, leaving contract negotiations between the tire maker and the USWA in their most unstable position since master talks began in March.
Bargaining for the six union locals covered by the expired master contract and two others that have separate pacts has progressed little, a USWA spokesman said, with a wide gap between the tire maker and union on several issues. About 7,000 workers are affected by those negotiations.
Local 1155's contract with BFS was separate from the master agreement and lapsed following the 589-14 rejection of the company's offer.
In talks between BFS and the Warren County local, the two sides agreed July 11 the company would make a "last and best" proposal to the union, and the membership would vote on it, a union spokesman said.
But the union's bargaining committee didn't like the offer and recommended it be rejected.
Under the July 11 agreement, the more than 750 Local 1155 members will work under the terms of the old contract, with both sides able to terminate the pact with 14 days notice, the USWA and company said.
The locals covered by the master contract, which expired April 23, are operating under a similar agreement while talks continue.
On the master level, the USWA is concerned because it says the company is demanding concessions in several areas. "They're using a hard-nosed approach," the spokesman said. "On many issues, either the company wants concessions or they're barely being touched."
The union has increased activism at several company plants, having workers wave yellow flags to "caution" their employer as to what could be down the road.
While the USWA tries to work out a deal with Bridgestone/Firestone, the rest of the tire industry is watching. In April, the union chose the Nashville, Tenn.-based firm as its "target company" for 2000 negotiations, hoping to set a pattern for the industry.
Bargaining committees for Local 1155 and the rest of the Bridgestone/Firestone locals plan to meet in St. Louis, where master talks have been based, to "assess where we are" and "decide what the next steps are," the spokesman said.
"There's a big gulf between us right now," he said. "The next few weeks should be interesting."