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Tire makers, USW reach tentative pacts

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PITTSBURGH—The United Steelworkers union (USW) has reached tentative agreements with Bridgestone Americas, Goodyear and Michelin North America Inc.'s BF Goodrich Tire unit on new 4-year master contracts covering more than 16,000 hourly workers at 14 U.S. plants.

The new contracts must now be voted on by USW locals at each plant. For passage, each contract must receive a majority of votes at a majority of the locals voting.

In the interim, the unions have agreed to continue working under the terms of the prior agreements—which technically expired July 27.

Neither the tire makers nor the USW offered details about how the new pacts compare with the expiring contracts.

In a prepared statement, Bridgestone said its goal in these negotiations was to achieve contracts that would allow it to remain competitive in the global marketplace while also addressing the best interests of its hourly employees.

“We are pleased with the progress made at the bargaining table and look forward to positive ratification votes and continuing our strong relationship with our employees and union leaders,” Bridgestone said.

Goodyear Chairman Rich Kramer, speaking to financial analysts July 30, said Goodyear “will be able to sustain our competitive position and be ready to take advantage of opportunities when demand begins to accelerate” because of the new contract.

Tom Conway, USW vice president administration, said: “The new tentative agreement includes economic and non-economic improvements for all union represented Goodyear employees, which led the committee to unanimously endorse it for ratification by the membership.”

The contract with Goodyear covers six plants: Buffalo, N.Y.; Danville, Va.; Fayette-ville, N.C.; Gadsden, Ala.; Topeka, Kan.; and Akron. The tire maker's only other U.S. tire plant, in Lawton, Okla., is a non-union factory, as is a plant in Napanee, Ontario.

The USW-BFG agreements cover 2,550 workers at plants in Fort Wayne, Ind., and Tuscaloosa, Ala., according to USW Local 715.

Details of the tentative agreement and the dates and times for ratification meetings will be forthcoming, according to a posting on USW Local 715's website.

The USW and Michelin/BFGoodrich declined to discuss issues during the negotiations.

Bridgestone's new contracts affect about 3,500 hourly employees at six plants. One agreement covers workers at plants in Des Moines, Iowa; LaVergne, Tenn.; Russellville, Ark., and Akron; separate contracts cover workers at plants in Warren County, Tenn., and Bloomington, Ill.

The Nashville-based tire maker also operates two non-union plants—in Graniteville, S.C., and Wilson, N.C.—with about 2,700 hourly employees. The 950 or so workers at the firm's plant in Joliette, Quebec, are represented by the Syndicat des Travailleurs de Bridgestone/Firestone de Joliette.

The labor situation among the U.S.'s other major tire makers is as follows:

Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. has separate labor agreements with workers at its plants in Findlay, Ohio, and Texarkana, Ark., both running through 2016. Its plant in Tuplo, Miss., is non-union.

Workers at Titan Tire Corp.'s plants in Bryan, Ohio, Des Moines, Iowa, and Freeport, Ill., ratified a 4-year agreement in April.

Yokohama Tire Corp. has a deal in place through May 2014 at its plant in Salem, Va.

Carlisle Transportation Products, Continental Tire the Americas L.L.C., GTY Tire, Hoosier Racing Tire Corp., Michelin North America Inc., Trelleborg Wheel Systems/Maine Industrial Tire, Mitas Tires North America Inc., Pirelli Tires L.L.C., Specialty Tires of America Inc. and Toyo Tire North America Manufacturing Inc. all operate non-union plants.
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