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Published on January 2, 2007

Strike's end comes just in time



AKRON (Jan. 1, 2007) — Goodyear and the United Steelworkers gave themselves an early Christmas present Dec. 22 by agreeing to a tentative three-year contract that, if ratified, would end the union's nearly three-month-long strike against the tire maker.

Assuming the various union locals approve the new pact by Dec. 28, the 12,600 U.S. employees covered by the master contract would soon be back on the job, and the tire maker would see its 12 tire and engineered products plants in the U.S. again ramp up to full production capacity. Four Canadian plants also will vote soon whether to end their strike.

None of this comes too soon.

Goodyear needs to get its plants in full gear to stem the estimated weekly loss of $30 million to $35 million in operating income caused by the strike so it again can focus efforts on its financial turnaround.

Independent tire dealers who offer Goodyear products need to see their fill rates return to normal. Dealers were beginning to experience severe supply shortages as a result of the strike and had, in many cases, turned to other suppliers to satisfy customer demands.

While many dealers stocked up on Goodyear-made tires prior to the strike, the length of the walkout had depleted those inventories, forcing dealers to sell competing lines, which in turn impacted deliveries to other independent dealers.

Akron-based Goodyear will have to work hard to regain any business lost to competing tire makers.

The striking union workers also need the strike to end so they can get back to work and begin earning their paychecks. Union workers who couldn't find short-term replacement work were forced to dip into savings to make ends meet, money they likely won't ever be able to recoup.

Even the U.S. military, which buys Goodyear tires for use on its Humvees, needs the tire maker working at full capacity to ensure a steady supply. Goodyear is the sole producer of Humvee tires.

Once the strike officially ends, the problems won't end immediately. It likely will take several months for Goodyear to ramp up production and begin to replenish its distribution pipelines.

But now it's time for both sides to put aside the strike rhetoric and focus on working together to get things back to normal as quickly as possible. It's a scenario that will benefit both sides in the end.

And getting things back to normal would be a gift appreciated by all.


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