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Rich: Goodyear should be given a fair chance to compete on a level playing field

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Jon Rich, president of Goodyear North American Tire, has been keeping in touch with his fellow employees on a regular basis during the United Steelworkers strike, now 31 days and counting. Here is Rich's letter to them on Friday, Nov. 3, in its entirety.

"As the strike against Goodyear enters its second month, all of us will be facing some difficult choices. So, it's appropriate that I use this week's letter to encourage everyone, including myself, to keep a few very important points in mind as we make our decisions.

"First, in addition to the fact that Goodyear is the only tire company being struck by the United Steelworkers, it is the only major tire company that is offering to invest for the long term in the United Steelworkers' plants.

"Second, Goodyear, the only tire company being struck by the United Steelworkers, is the only tire company whose core strategy is to bring more new products and more high-value-added branded tires into production at United Steelworker plants.

"And, all that being true, what should Goodyear seek in return? Only that we -- all Goodyear associates -- be given a fair chance to compete on a level playing field with our foreign-owned competitors. That's why we simply will not agree to a contract that -- before the first tire is produced -- makes Goodyear less competitive.

"I don't believe that you would accept that either because, as we all know, if we fail to remain competitive and serve our customers, all jobs will be lost.

"No one at Goodyear is afraid of competition. I am not. And I know you certainly are not. But the battle for customers should be won or lost on the playing field -- in the marketplace -- and not decided by a labor agreement that puts us all at a disadvantage.

"You've heard me say this over and over but I'm going to say it again today: The only kind of winning that matters is winning with customers. Without our customers, there is no Goodyear. Our goal has always been the same -- do what is necessary to enhance our ability to create value for our customers.

"Today, we all stand together at a crossroad facing difficult choices. Though we may have different perspectives on the problem, I know that we all share at least one common view. We all want Goodyear to flourish as a strong competitor in North America and to provide jobs and great products for generations of Americans to come.

"In closing, please take the opportunity to read Jim Allen's letter posted on www.goodyearnegotiations.com. Jim has helped clear up a lot of confusion about Goodyear's real proposals. I encourage every associate to consider carefully what is being offered and what is at stake for you, your family, your co-workers and our communities... and then make the best decision that you can in accordance with your own conscience.

"Thank you and be safe."

(To check out excerpts from Allen's letter plus the union's response to it, see "Goodyear and USW set up labor negotiation-related Web sites," Nov. 2, 2006.)

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