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Titan locks out union as voting looms

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Titan International Inc. has locked out employees from its three plants in the United States as negotiations with the United Steelworkers (USW) continue.

According to Titan Chairman and CEO Maurice "Morry" Taylor Jr., the union was given final contract offers on Friday, Dec. 17, for the three plants: Bryan, Ohio; Des Moines, Iowa; and Freeport, Ill. He said closing them down was necessary while the USW talks with its workers this week.

On Nov. 19, 2010, the USW extended its contracts with Titan Tire at the three facilities until Dec. 17 while negotiations for a new contract proceeded (see "Titan, Steelworkers extend contract talks").

Taylor explained that the union's choice to hold the meetings during the week -- USW officials are in Bryan today -- with the holiday approaching was not conducive to manufacturing efficiency. In addition, he did not want to extend the talks again.

"Titan's lockout of 1,000 of our members at all three of its tire-making facilities is completely unnecessary and entirely premature," said Jim Robinson, chairman of the USW's Negotiating Committee and director of USW District 7 in Gary, Ind.

In an official statement, the union said the two sides began negotiations in September and were working toward a contract "that contained changes the company stated it needed to regain profitability at the three USW-represented plants." It also claimed that Titan informed the union in the middle of last week that it would not agree to a further extension and would lock out workers unless an agreement was reached.

"The company's proposal falls far short of what we would like to see, and we would much rather have continued to negotiate and reach a mutually acceptable deal," said Robinson.

"However, due to the company's intransigence and its declaration that it would lock out our members, we made it clear to the company that we would continue to work, take their contract proposal back to our members, explain it and have the members vote. Despite our commitment, Titan chose to shut its doors and lock our members out the week before Christmas."

The union is holding explanation meetings at each of the facilities over the course of the next few days. The membership will vote on the contracts on Thursday, Dec. 23, 2010.

The three plants have the capacity to produce nearly 20,000 OTR, farm and industrial tires a day, according to Modern Tire Dealer's latest research.

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