PITTSBURGH (Feb. 19, 2004) — The United Steelworkers of America wants to know why Goodyear has slated its newest line of passenger tires for production at a non-union site when contract provisions call for the USWA to be given "first consideration" for new North American products.
The Steelworkers union announced Feb. 19 it is seeking an investigation into Goodyear's choice to manufacture its newly unveiled Assurance line at the company's Lawton, Okla., tire plant. The union claims the decision violates the "protected plant" provisions of the three-year contract the USWA and Goodyear signed last fall.
The pact guarantees "meaningful and significant first consideration and preference" to 12 USWA-organized Goodyear tire and rubber facilities for the manufacture of products developed for sale in North America, the union claims. The union is upset the Assurance announcement came "without any discussion or notice, particularly given our patience and understanding regarding the company's slow progress on their promised financial restructuring," said USWA Vice President Andrew V. Palm.
In December, Goodyear delayed filing its amended 2002 10-K because of an accounting investigation in Europe. The delay affected Goodyear's ability to satisfy an obligation to the union to raise $250 million in debt and $75 million in equity-linked financing by the end of 2003. The union now has the right to strike after a grievance process if it wishes to do so.
A company spokesman said Goodyear's decision to make Assurance tires in Lawton is in complete compliance with the labor agreement. The company still is committed to its ongoing relationship with the USWA, he said.
Goodyear would not comment further on why its actions comply with the contract, but the language being cited in the dispute does say the protected plants will be given first consideration "to the extent the necessary capacity and capability is available or could be made available without incurring a materially greater level of capital expenditures than would be required at other than a protected facility."
Two organized company plants did not receive fully protected plant status as a result of the contract. The Goodyear Dunlop plant in Huntsville, Ala., was shut down in December; and the Kelly-Springfield facility in Tyler, Texas, was given partial protection with the potential to achieve full protection if agreed-upon production goals are met.
Protected plant status also guarantees no closure during the contract period, minimum staffing levels, import restrictions and capital investment commitments, the USWA said.