PITTSBURGH, Pa. (March 8, 2005) — The United Steelworkers of America (USWA) has begun making strike preparations at union locals at three U.S. Bridgestone/Firestone plants and is planning strike training sessions at five other BFS plants.
BFS's master contract with the USWA expired in April 2003, and 6,000 employees at the eight unionized BFS facilities have been working under a day-to-day extension since then. Either side can terminate the extension by issuing a five-day notice, the USWA said.
A BFS spokesman said the two sides continue to talk in St. Louis. “As long as you're talking and exchanging ideas…you have to be hopeful that you can reach a new, good compromise that's in everyone's best interest,” he said.
But the USWA indicated it believes the talks are not producing results.
“In negotiations, the company still resists our demands that it grow and invest in our plants in order to secure the future of our plants and increase their share of new and higher margin products,” said John Sellers, USWA executive vice president. “There's no way that our members will accept a contract that allows BFS to export our jobs and replace our production with imports and goods produced at non-union plants.”
Unlike Goodyear and Michelin's BFGoodrich unit that have made long-term commitments to U.S. manufacturing, BFS has not committed to make investments in Steelworker-represented facilities, the USWA said.
“It appears that BFS is looking to gain an unfair competitive advantage in the North American market,” Mr. Sellers said. “The Goodyear and BFGoodrich master agreements promise our members no plant closures and guaranteed employment levels.”
The BFS spokesman told Tire Business that the Nashville, Tenn.-based tire maker has been clear with the union from the start of talks that the Goodyear contract doesn't work for Bridgestone/Firestone. He added that job security guarantees are unrealistic, and security depends primarily on the performance of the business.
“We're different companies, we have different strengths and weaknesses, different challenges,” he said of Goodyear and Michelin's BFGoodrich. “We have consistently said we want a contract that makes sense for our business.”
The spokesman added that BFS has invested about $257 million in five U.S. plants since 1999 with other projects ongoing. “We're constantly reinvesting in our plants because we have to.”
Strike preparations have begun at union locals in Des Moines, Iowa; LaVergne, Tenn.; and Russellville, Ark. Strike preparation training sessions are set to begin in the coming two weeks at locals in Akron; Noblesville, Ind.; Bloomington, Ill.; Oklahoma City; and Warren County, Tenn.