PITTSBURGH (Sept. 28, 2004) — The United Steelworkers of America has filed suit to delay or block Cooper Tire & Rubber Co.´s pending sale of Cooper Standard Automotive group, saying labor contracts at four plants preclude a sale until new owners reach agreement with the union.
The USWA, which represents 1,500 workers at Cooper auto parts plants in Bowling Green, Ohio, Fort Wayne, Ind., and Eldorado, Ark., filed the lawsuit Monday in U.S. District Court in Fort Wayne.
The lawsuit comes just over a week after Cooper announced a $1.17 billion deal to sell the automotive unit to a consortium of New York-based investment equity groups.
The USWA said its contracts with Cooper contain “successorship” language that precludes a sale until the union has reached agreement with new owners.
The USWA said it asked Cooper Tire repeatedly in the past two weeks to introduce its representatives to the prospective buyers so that bargaining could be completed without delay of the sale.
In a written statement, Cooper Tire said planned sale of Cooper Standard is a “stock sale… structured in a manner that would essentially leave the automotive business unit intact, with employees remaining employed, the continuation of all existing union relationships and all existing Cooper Standard labor contracts remaining in effect.”
Cooper said it believes the USWA's interpretation of the successorship language—i.e., that the union has the right to require any buyer to negotiate new agreements before a sale takes place—“is wrong contractually and violates federal (labor) law.”