PITTSBURGH (March 3, 2004) — The United Steelworkers of America (USWA) and Goodyear have resolved their dispute regarding the production of the new Assurance tire line.
The company has committed to manufacturing a “significant portion” of Assurance production at USWA-organized facilities, the union announced March 3. Goodyear will produce a majority of its new Assurance ComforTred luxury tires at its organized Gadsden, Ala., tire plant, while it will make the remainder of the ComforTred tires and its mid-level TripleTred line at its non-union Lawton, Okla., facility, a USWA spokesman said.
A Goodyear press release said that “outstanding customer response” to the introduction of the new Assurance line will result in expanded production as quickly as possible at the Gadsden plant.
“Gadsden was always in our plans as a facility to build the Assurance with ComforTred Technology tires,” said Brant Schnackenberg, vice president of manufacturing for Goodyear's North American Tire business. “It's part of our overall sourcing strategy for meeting the demand for Assurance.”
The Assurance with TripleTred and ComforTred Technology will continue to be manufactured in Lawton, he said, with the potential of adding TripleTred production to Napanee, Ontario, Canada, if demand requires. Lawton and Napanee have unique equipment capabilities to handle the cutting edge technologies that comprise the Assurance TripleTred products, he added.
“We're pleased with the groundbreaking agreement that was reached with the USWA in September of 2003,” Mr. Schnackenberg said. “Goodyear sourcing decisions on Assurance are consistent with our current labor agreement, and we continue to have productive, ongoing discussions with the USWA to implement provisions of the contract that will further improve Goodyear's competitiveness.”
Molds for the ComforTred models will be sent to Gadsden, the USWA spokesman said. Goodyear made the ComforTred available in 20 sizes beginning March 1, while the TripleTred will be available in 13 sizes in April, in 14-, 15-, and 16-inch diameters.
The dispute over the Assurance tire occurred after its Feb. 6 unveiling, when Goodyear said production would take place in Lawton. The USWA contended that job security provisions of the three-year contract agreement reached in September 2003 called for production to occur in unionized facilities.
The union claimed the company's decision violated the “protected plant” provisions of the contract, which 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.
Goodyear at the time said its decision was in complete compliance with its labor agreement. The contract language cited in the dispute does say the protected plants would 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.”
As part of their agreement, the company and union will develop a protocol for providing the union with ongoing information regarding the development of new products to reduce the possibility of future disputes, the USWA said. Goodyear also indicated that down the road more than 1 million additional tires would be produced in USWA plants based on increased demand, the union said.
As much as union officials were upset with an alleged contract violation, they were angrier at being “blindsided” by the announcement. Ron Hoover, a USWA contract coordinator who's been working with Goodyear for 40 years, said he felt betrayed.
“We typically know about tire releases ahead of time and where they'll be made,” he said late last month. “Those are smart people over there (at Goodyear). I can't believe it went over their heads.”
Mr. Hoover, however, also was thankful the company kept a cool head and suggested the two sides sit down and settle the issue. “Resolution was reached through a constructive and meaningful dialogue,” he said.
David Meyer, professor of management at Central Connecticut State University in New Britain, Conn., said before the Assurance resolution that splitting the tire line's production would be the best course.
“Goodyear is expecting this tire to take off, and Lawton won't have all the capacity it needs if that happens,” he said. “The company can't afford to have fill problems here. If they get the tires to the dealers and the dealers get them to move, they'll need more capacity and most likely that will come at a union plant. It can be a win/win.”