We're not here to take sides in the bitter contract squabble between Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. and the United Steelworkers (USW) at the company's tire plant in Findlay, Ohio.
But we do want to take the union to task for its recent "day of action" that ended up negatively impacting some of the valued customers who sell the products that USW members make.
The contract dispute, which started late last year, resulted in Cooper's locking out 1,050 workers at the plant after the union overwhelmingly voted down the company's reportedly "last, best and final" proposal in November.
Union workers are upset that the company won't return some of the $30 million in wage and benefit concessions the USW said it made several years ago when the company was struggling financially, especially now that Cooper is solidly back on its feet.
The company, for its part, wants to implement production standards in its next contract with the union to make the plant more competitive.
To say the two sides are at a stalemate is putting it mildly.
But the union overstepped its bounds recently when it chose to drag about 150 independent tire dealers into the dispute—not because it chose to send demonstrators to their locations, but by the way it went about doing it.
While the objective may have been to publicize the lockout and gain favor from tire dealers and the community at large, the picketing caught many dealerships off guard. More importantly, it ended up affecting some of the dealerships in places where it hurt the most—their pocketbooks and with their customers.
That certainly wasn't the union's intention, but in some cases, that's what ended up happening.
One dealer, Dennis Leipold, owner of Leipold Tire Co. in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, felt his business was attacked by the picketing union workers.
They ended up disrupting his business, he said, including blocking the driveway to his dealership and sending a confusing message to passersby, all without informing him initially of their grievances with Cooper.
He had good cause to be angry. They got things backward, he said. "The union members have a valid point, but I'm not responsible."
Even if the tire dealers involved were sympathetic with the cause of the locked-out union workers, the mere act of demonstrating at their dealerships more than likely turned many off, especially in the cases where they didn't first inform dealership management of the USW's intentions.
We urge the two sides to work out their differences so everyone can get back to work. Just keep the tire dealers who sell the company's products out of the fray.