Rich: management and labor working together 'is the only winning that matters'

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Jon Rich, president of Goodyear North American Tire, sent out a letter to his North American associates last Friday, Oct. 20. In it he reiiterated the company's ultimate goals in regard to Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.'s negotiations with the United Steelworkers (USW) union.

* a contract fair to all stakeholders;

* a contract that enhances Goodyear's competitive position;

* a contract that will help the company "win with customers in today's intense global marketplace."

Also in the letter, he tries to put the negotiations in context by describing the tire industry landscape. Here is the letter, word for word, sent out by Rich (companies in parentheses were added by for clarity's sake).

"As we begin the third week of the USW work stoppage at Goodyear, Iā€™m sure many of you are anxious, restless and perhaps a little frustrated. As the strike continues, it's tempting to start shifting the focus from "What are we trying to achieve?" to "When will this be over?" So today I'd like to start by reminding everyone of the goal: a contract that is fair to all stakeholders, that enhances our competitive position and helps us win with customers in today's intense global marketplace.

"We must ensure that the battle for customers is played out in the marketplace and all competitors should start on equal footing.

"But beyond that, we are trying to save American manufacturing. Industries such as textiles, steel and electronics -- once staples of our economy -ā€“ have all but vanished from our shores. We refuse to give up on American manufacturing because we are committed to manufacturing successfully right here. We will not allow Goodyear to simply be a statistic -ā€“ the latest once-great U.S. company that abandoned the American worker. We will not let that happen.

"The global nature of our competition is such that we must change to survive and prosper. That's why I assure you that we will not agree to a deal that puts Goodyear at a cost or competitive disadvantage. As I have said, this negotiation is not a struggle of management versus labor. It's management and labor working together to find a way that we can compete successfully in the marketplace. Until we can get to a common ground on an agreement that will help us reduce cost, be competitive and win with customers, there won't be progress.

"I'm sure you've seen the news this week and reports about our competition. A competitor (Bridgestone Firestone North American Tire LLC) confirmed more than 400 "permanent layoffs" in Oklahoma City before the end of this month. Another competitor's workforce ratified severance packages in Mayfield, Ky., clearing away for that plant to be closed early next year (Continental Tire North America Inc). This is the same competitor that earlier said that it would stop building tires in Charlotte, N.C. This is on the heels of the announcement in July that yet another tiremaker (Michelin North America Inc.) was closing a plant in Kitchener, Ontario.

"It seems ironic to me that those who are trying to defend American manufacturing are walking the picket line, while fellow Steelworkers are on the job at our foreign competitors, trying to take our business from our customers.

"We hope everybody comes back to work soon. We hope the salaried associates who are working in our plants can get back to their homes, their families, and their usual jobs. But we want everyone to come back to a new Goodyear, one that will compete on a level playing field, one that is in control of its own future.

"In the meantime, I ask for your continuing support and patience. Thank you for all of your hard work to continue serving our customers. Ultimately, they are the only ones who can deliver job security. As I have said, this negotiation is not management versus labor. It's management and labor working together to find a way we can compete successfully in the marketplace. That's the only winning that matters. And the winners of the battle will be easy to find. They'll be the ones with the customers.

"Stay safe this weekend."


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