Members of United Steelworkers Local 1155 at Bridgestone/Firestone's Warren County truck and bus tire plant have approved a new contract with the tire maker by a wide margin after initially turning down virtually the same agreement a week earlier.
The nearly 800 members of Local 1155 gave a 74-percent approval margin in voting that ended July 25. The workers originally had rejected the proposal by an 85-percent margin in voting June 17 and had issued a five-day strike notice that could have resulted in a walkout July 22.
That notice was withdrawn when the local decided to revote on the proposal.
``Our members asked us to revisit the issues one more time,'' said Van Tenpenny, Local 1155 financial secretary. The leadership of Local 1155 had recommended against the contract proposal before the initial vote but put the pact up without recommendation this time.
A BFS spokesman said the firm was pleased the contract was ratified by such a large margin. ``Our goal was to get a contract that was good for both sides,'' he said. ``The important thing now is for everyone to come together and focus on the future and do everything we can to be successful in a competitive global environment.''
BFS reached contract agreements affecting more than 5,000 workers at seven other company tire and rubber plants last month. The Warren County contingent was among the locals included in the negotiations, although their pact is separate from the master contract covering six of the factories.
Local 1155 leadership had balked at the offer at that time because they believed it was substandard for what their workers do, especially given the Warren County factory's profitability. Production rates, mandatory overtime, vacation money and pay for working 12-hour shifts were among the main sticking points.
The contracts run through July 23, 2006, thus lining up with previous contracts the USW ratified with Goodyear and Michelin North America Inc.'s BFGoodrich tire units.
Mr. Tenpenny said he expects job outsourcing to be one of the main issues when the two sides return to the bargaining table next year. ``It's an issue with all of us and needs to be completely addressed,'' he said. ``The U.S. economy can't withstand more manufacturing jobs leaving. The line will have to be drawn, and the battle will have to be fought.''
The BFS spokesman said the issue of job security is one that both sides need to work on together. ``The issue for all of us is the same,'' he said. ``How to make world-class products at competitive prices. If we can work together in a way to make us the most competitive tire maker in the world, job security will take care of itself.''