The United Steelworkers of America 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 all-season TripleTred line at its non-union Lawton, Okla., facility, a USWA spokesman said.
Molds for the ComforTred models will be sent to Gadsden, he 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.
Outstanding customer response to the Assurance line will result in expanded production at Gadsden ``as quickly as possible,'' Goodyear said. The Gadsden facility was always in the company's plans to produce the Assurance ComforTred models, said Brant Schnackenberg, Goodyear North American Tire vice president of manufacturing.
Goodyear also may add TripleTred production at its non-union Napanee, Ontario, factory if demand dictates, the company said.
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 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.
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 quickly suggested the two sides sit down and settle the issue. ``Resolution was reached through a constructive and meaningful dialogue.''
Mr. Schnackenberg said the company's sourcing decisions are consistent with its USWA labor agreement.
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.''