DES MOINES, Iowa—Titan International Inc. will face more unfair labor practice complaints from the National Labor Relations Board stemming from ongoing strikes at its tire plants in Des Moines and Natchez, Miss.
On July 28, Region 18 of the NLRB issued a complaint against Titan, alleging that company officials "interfered with, restrained and coerced employees" who attempted to exercise legal strike-related activities at the Des Moines farm tire facility.
The complaint said Titan fired seven striking members of United Steelworkers Local 164 to "discourage them from engaging in concerted activity." USWA Local 164 struck against Titan May 1, 1998.
Maurice Taylor Jr., Titan president and CEO, said the firm fired striking workers who illegally were picketing outside one of the plant gates and using offensive language against other employees shortly before Christmas. He said video taken of the incident showed they had violated a court order and broken company rules.
Shortly after the strike began, Titan obtained an injunction from a Polk County district court judge limiting picket numbers at designated plant gates, setting parameters on allowable proximity to the gates and outlining acceptable behavior on the picket line.
On Feb. 17, Local 164 was held in contempt of the injunction after members picketed Dec. 22 and 23, 1999, at a gate not mentioned in the court order. The judge said the members had picketed at an unapproved gate and used "insulting" and "vulgar" language against Titan employees, including replacements hired during the strike.
The NLRB complaint comes from unfair labor practice charges filed by Local 164 in March and April. Titan's actions were "discouraging membership in a labor organization, in violation of (the National Labor Relations Act)," the complaint said.
"This complaint speaks for itself," said Local 164 President John Peno. "We will do whatever is necessary to protect the jobs and civil rights of every member of USWA Local 164 every day of the week."
Mr. Taylor called the NLRB action a "political situation."
The case will go before a federal administrative law judge at a later date. The NLRB has ruled against Titan on several unfair labor practice charges, decisions the company has appealed.
The NLRB also announced July 31 that it set a hearing for an unfair labor practice complaint against Titan in Natchez, where members of USWA Local 303 struck Sept. 15, 1998. The complaint, announced to the union and company July 13 by the NLRB's Region 15 office, will be heard Dec. 11 in Adams County, Miss.
The complaint alleges that as an "alter ego" of Condere Corp., which controlled the Natchez plant before filing for bankruptcy in 1997, Titan was obligated to hire its employees and use the collective bargaining agreement in place at the time.
The NLRB also alleges Titan unlawfully modified the Condere/USWA contract; intimidated the workers with threats on their jobs because they belonged to a union; failed to provide bargaining information; and illegally asked workers to remove the USWA as their bargaining representative.
The NLRB will seek back pay of about $25 million for the strikers and reinstatement of their jobs, said Leo Bradley, president of USWA|Local 303.
But Mr. Taylor has maintained Local 303 members rejected their contract through the bankruptcy proceedings and have no rights to the jobs in Natchez. It was the union's decision not to be rehired after Titan took over Condere's operations, he said. Any action taken against Titan in Natchez also needs to go through a petition in federal bankruptcy court, according to Mr. Taylor.
Mr. Bradley said the complaint "affirms what we've been saying all along. These jobs are our jobs."