"We are pleased with the overwhelming approval of USW members on our contract, building on the strong partnership that Goodyear and the union have established over many years," Jim Allen, vice president of global labor relations, said in a statement.
"This labor agreement positions both Goodyear and the USW for future success."
Bridgestone's contract covers more than 3,000 employees at six sites — Local 7 in Akron; Local 310 in Des Moines, Iowa; Local 787 in Bloomington, Ill.; Local 884 in Russellville, Ark.; Local 1055 in La Vergne, Tenn.; and Local 1155 in Warren County, Tenn. — according to a company spokeswoman.
"This outcome was reached following a lengthy and respectful negotiation process, resulting in a mutually satisfactory agreement for both parties that will benefit our teammates and the manufacturing facilities involved," Bridgestone said in a statement.
The Sumitomo pact covers the firm's sole U.S. site, in Tonawanda, N.Y., represented by Local 135. The facility transferred to Sumitomo from Goodyear in late 2015 after the two firms dissolved their global alliance. The deal covers about 1,000 workers.
"Both parties in the negotiations were thorough in their preparations and leveraged a longstanding respectful relationship to come to a tentative agreement," Bill Jackson, SRUSA's vice president of human resources, said in a statement. "SRUSA looks forward to ratification and a continued productive relationship with the USW."
All three tire makers declined to comment beyond their statements. Mr. Johnson added that there were no changes to the plant protection clauses in all three contracts.
Relief from China
Mr. Johnson said one factor that led to unilateral wage increases across all 12 sites was the success the union has had in petitioning the International Trade Commission for antidumping relief on tires imported from Asian countries, most notably China.
"Anytime that you're able to inhibit the Chinese from dumping tires into the market it helps stabilize the market," he said. "It stabilizes the sales for the company, helps maintain pricing and certainly benefits the company overall. That was part, not all, but part of the overall economics that played well for all three companies."
Passenger and light truck tires sourced from China have been subject since July 2015 to countervailing and antidumping duties import duties ranging from 45.2 to 120.6 percent, as determined by the U.S. Commerce Department after a several-month investigation.
The union also successfully petitioned for tariffs in 2009, but those expired in 2012 leading to the most recent victory. The USW said at the time that the Chinese began swamping the market with unfairly priced tires.
A similar, more recent action against truck and bus tires did not gain ITC approval.
While neither Goodyear nor its local unions released a copy of the master contract, summaries for Bridgestone and Sumitomo deals disclosed wage increases across all levels and a significant reduction in the two-tiered wage system over the life of the deals. Health care costs were also stabilized for union members, relative to the market.
"We're highly productive," Mr. Johnson said. "The plants we're running are running at rates of productivity that are extremely good. When you have high productivity, you have a good market and a level of protection against dumped Chinese imports, it bodes well for the bottom line. And when it bodes well for the bottom line, it bodes well for negotiations. We certainly went in with that intent and believed that we capitalized on it."
All three deals are longer than their predecessors, which expired after four years on July 29. They are also longer than the deal covering Michelin/BFGoodrich plants in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (Local 351), and Fort Wayne, Ind. (Local 715).
The previous contract covering those two sites was on the same cycle as the Goodyear, Bridgestone and now Sumitomo deals, established in 2013. The Michelin contract had an opt-out clause allowing those locals to terminate the deal a year early. The new deal, reached in 2016, runs through July 27, 2019.
"The unions and all three companies felt reasonably good about a five-year window," Mr. Johnson said. "When you can get to that point, stability is something to be provided for both the company and the unions. We have contracts that protect us in health care changes and have reasonable pay progression over the period, so it made sense for us and I think it made sense for the company to have that kind of stability going forward as well."
On the health care front, the Bridgestone locals received minimal changes to insurance coverage with premium increases capped at 4 percent for 2018-19 and 7 percent from 2020-22. Premiums will increase only if health care costs increase.
The Sumitomo employees saw some significant changes with a $1.50 per week increase in premiums from 2018-21 and no increases in 2022. A high-deductible plan with a health savings account will also be available. Employees may also opt out of health insurance if their spouse has employer-provided health insurance.
"We felt like we protected our members in the environment in which health care is operating today," Johnson said.
"We think we gave them stability going forward, there were very few changes in the health care plans overall, and where there were changes they were more tweaks than anything else. We also captured how much increased cost should be shifted to employees, so we felt pretty good about what we came out with in health care."