Steelworkers target Goodyear as 2003 master contract negotiations lead

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"We're targeting Goodyear to set the pattern" for the rest of the tire industry, says Wayne Ranick, spokesman for the United Steelworkers of America (USWA), which has been negotiating with the Akron, Ohio-based tiremaker since mid-March.

USWA officials also have been negotiating contracts with Bridgestone Americas Holding Inc. and Michelin North America Inc. over the past several weeks.

"Typically, there's a lead company in negotiations," says Ranick.

Goodyear was chosen in part due to the fact that it is the largest single employer of USWA members, according to USWA Executive Vice President John Sellers.

The prospect of possible Goodyear plant closings in the United States also played a key role in the decision, say USWA officials.

"Labor costs are not at the root of Goodyear's problems."

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-USWA negotiations represent 20,000 union members and 22,000 retirees; they are being conducted in Cincinnati. The groups' three-year contract is slated to expire on April 19, 2003, at Goodyear and Dunlop plants, and on July 6, 2003, at Kelly facilities.

"We look forward to the challenge of crafting a mutually acceptable agreement," say Goodyear officials. "We need to focus on solutions that will assist the company's recovery process."

Talks with Bridgestone/Firestone cover 6,000 workers in eight U.S. plants and are taking place in St. Louis, Mo. Knoxville, Tenn.-based negotiations with Michelin cover 4,000 members in three plants. Both Bridgestone/Firestone and Michelin contracts expire April 23, 2003.

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