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Goodyear's Rich says he is 'cautiously optimistic' about contract talks

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Goodyear North American Tire President Jon Rich said he is "cautiously optimistic" that Goodyear and the United Steelworkers of America (USWA) will hammer out an agreement and prevent, or limit the duration of, a strike.

In his remarks to investors, industry analysts and reporters during today's Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. investor conference, Rich related as much about the current state of the negotiations as he deemed appropriate.

He said the company is not in a position to suffer through a lengthy strike. At the same time, he said Goodyear has to work out a deal that will allow it to "compete effectively" against other domestic manufacturers.

That includes properly aligning capacity with demand, which could lead to plant closings.

"I think there's an agreement conceptually on what needs to be done," said Rich, who is personally heading up the negotiations for Goodyear.

He added that Goodyear is looking at its options and preparing for the worst if the parties can't reach an agreement without a strike.

Goodyear's three-year contract with the USWA expired at midnight on April 19 at Goodyear and Dunlop plants; however, the parties have extended the contract on a day-to-day basis since then.

The USWA has targeted Goodyear "to set the pattern" for tire industry contracts. USWA officials say the goal of pattern agreements "is to provide a level playing field for employers when it comes to the cost of labor."

Goodyear is the largest single employer of USWA members.

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