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Goodyear's Rich: 'We are trying to save American manufacturing'

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AKRON (Oct. 25, 2006) — Jon Rich, president of Goodyear's North American Tire business unit, said the tire maker is committed to manufacturing in the U.S., but it needs to stay on equal footing with its competitors to do so.

In an Oct. 20 letter to Goodyear employees regarding the ongoing United Steelworkers strike at 16 North American facilities, Mr. Rich reminded them the company's goal is to attain a fair contract for all stakeholders that enhances its competitive global position.

“The global nature of our competition is such that we must change to survive and prosper,” he said. “That's why I assure you that we will not agree to a deal that puts Goodyear at a cost or competitive disadvantage.”

A USW spokesman responded that the union has done more than its share to be fair, including taking concessions in the 2003 master contract negotiations that resulted in the closure of the company's Huntsville, Ala., tire plant.

“A contract that´s fair to all its stakeholders? Hasn´t everyone but our members benefited from the turnaround since 2003?” he asked. “Despite the innovations we brought to the table then and the sacrifices we made, the company is demanding more closures and more concessions.”

Mr. Rich also said Goodyear is “trying to save American manufacturing.”

“Industries such as textiles, steel and electronics—once staples of our economy—have all but vanished from our shores. We refuse to give up on American manufacturing because we are committed to manufacturing successfully right here. We will not allow Goodyear to simply be a statistic—the latest once-great U.S. company that abandoned the American worker. We will not let that happen.”

The union spokesman said the USW was very involved in the most recent restructuring of the steel industry, which is currently quite healthy—not “vanished from our shores.” He also wondered how Mr. Rich can talk about saving American manufacturing when the company is looking to close plants and downsize domestic production.

Mr. Rich also said it seemed ironic that the union members who are trying to defend American manufacturing are walking the picket line, while fellow Steelworkers are on the job at Goodyear's foreign competitors, trying to “take our business from our customers.”

Mr. Rich noted layoffs and closures announced or completed this year at competitors Bridgestone/Firestone, Continental Tire North America Inc. and Michelin North America Inc., though he didn't mention the companies by name.

The USW spokesman said the plant closures listed notably omitted the 2003 Huntsville shutdown. “Goodyear was the first to move to reduce domestic capacity,” he said.

The USW/Goodyear strike started Oct. 5.

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