Steelworkers target Bridgestone/Firestone at Indy 500

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Unionized Bridgestone/Firestone workers represented by the United Steelworkers are making a major push at this year's Indianapolis 500 to gain public support for their position in contract talks with the company.

The United Steelworkers are part of the USW.

A team of union workers from eight Bridgestone/Firestone tire plants in the United States are working the racing crowd to get out their message that Bridgestone/Firestone should provide wages, benefits, and plant reinvestment as comparable tire companies such as Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. have done.

According to the union, USW members say the former Firestone Tire & Rubber Co. has shown less commitment to the U.S. since being purchased by Japan-based Bridgestone Corp. in 1988.

The union members are seeking an agreement from Bridgestone/Firestone to reinvest in U.S. production facilities to make jobs for American workers more secure. Negotiations between the parties are ongoing.

The original contract expired on April 23, 2003. Eight plants and some 6,000 union workers are affected.

Steelworkers have set up a booth on Georgetown Road, where they are asking racing fans to sign a petition, and are distributing nearly 100,000 sets of free earplugs, Indy Racing League schedules, and black flags, all with a pro-union message.

In addition, the union is running hundreds of radio ads, sponsoring a plane flyover, and running several mobile billboards on the streets around the racetrack.

Larry Odum, a longtime employee at Bridgestone/Firestone's plant in La Vergne, Tenn., said, "Union workers would like to concentrate on making top quality tires, but we're not going to watch more and more of our jobs be exported overseas without a fight."

The United Steelworkers are part of the USW, which was formed when the former United Steelworkers of America (USWA) merged with the Paper, Allied-Industrial, Chemical and Energy Workers International Union (PACE) in April. USW refers to the United Steel, Paper and Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial and Service Workers International Union.

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