What's next for USWA: Michelin and Bridgestone

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Will the tentative agreement between the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. and the United Steelworkers of America (USWA) act as the pattern for agreements with the other tire manufacturers negotiating contracts? Maybe not.

On April 8, the USWA said yes, it would act as the pattern. "We're targeting Goodyear to set the pattern for the rest of the tire industry)," said Wayne Ranick, USWA spokesman.

However, following the announcement that a tentative agreement between the parties had been reached, the USWA said its Advisory Committee of the Rubber and Plastics Industry Conference needed to first review it.

According to the union's "Solidarity Alert" to its members, the review "will determine whether or not the contract will be used as the pattern settlement for the tire and rubber industry."

Few details from the agreement are known, other than Goodyear is closing its Huntsville, Ala., passenger tire manufacturing plant.

It seems both Michelin North America Inc. and Bridgestone Americas Holding Inc. are taking a wait and see approach.

"We are pleased that Goodyear and the United Steelworkers have reached a tentative agreement," says a Michelin spokeswoman. "Now, we are looking forward to resuming our negotiations.

"Since we are not familiar with the details of the agreement, any comment we make would be speculation. We are focused on resuming our negotiations and on reaching an agreement that meets the needs of both the company and the employees represented by the United Steelworkers."

Bridgestone and the union recessed talks in St. Louis, Mo., indefinitely on Apr. 28, pending the Goodyear negotiations.

At the time, a union spokesman said the agreement with the target company (in this case, Goodyear), "establishes the pattern for the other master contracts in the rubber and tire industry. Without a pattern agreement to serve as a template, both sides in St. Louis decided that no further progress could be made at this point in the talks."

The talks with Bridgestone/Firestone cover 6,000 workers in eight U.S. plants. Negotiations with Michelin are being held in Knoxville, Tenn., and cover 4,000 members in three plants. Union contracts with both Bridgestone/Firestone and Michelin expired Apr. 23.

The Goodyear-USWA negotiations represented 19,000 union members and 22,000 retirees.

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