Goodyear laborers, retirees sound off on problems with USW

Nov. 14, 2006

As you might expect, has received a lot of e-mails commenting on the negotiations between the United Steelworkers and Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.

Some have come from independent tire dealers, the majority of whom are against the on-going strike (the link to the video, "Tire dealers speak out on strike," is located near the upper right-hand corner of our home page under "Video Highlights").

Not surprisingly, comments from current and former union workers dominate our e-message board. Many are sharing their views from the picket line. Some are retirees, and others are fellow union members working at competing tire manufacturing facilities.

We can't print them all, but here is a good representation of what we have received.

1. Union rep: "I agree with the idea of saving American manufacturing jobs. However, I strongly disagree with the tire company's wanting to do it once again on the back of us workers. Gutting contracts, concessions, and total disregard for workers' sacrifices is, simply put, not working 'together.'

"If these companies want to be truly competitive, they will invest in our American plants and quit spending all of their profits on high tech plants overseas. I hope in this battle the union workers prevail; there is much at stake in this struggle for all of us.

2. Tire builder: "We shouldn't lose anything. Quit giving into them."

3. Mechanic: "Seems to me (there are) a lot of lies going on about issues. (Goodyear) needs to quit (its) half-truths about issues. Things, then, would move along a lot better."

4. Retiree: "If something is brought before the government, either showing or stating that there will be many people who will have to go on Medicare, they may not have to if they were allowed to keep all their medical benefits, or (if Goodyear would) increase coverage so the retirees would not have to use the Medicare benefits. I worked 30 years to help make them profitable, and now they just want to forget about those who were there."

5. Warehouse worker (in response to Goodyear borrowing nearly $1 billion under an existing revolving credit facility to provide it with additional cash in the event of a prolonged strike): "I think it is very sad. I am a second generation employee at Goodyear. It is distressing to know that the company would rather create more debt than provide a contract to their employees.

"The company obviously doesn't care about the families struggling out there. Is the upper management worried where their next meal will come from? Are they worried how to provide for their children? No, they are not. With their over-the-top salaries and bonuses, I'm pretty sure they are on vacation right now! If we ever do get a contract, I'm sure they will not be willing to give up next year's bonuses to help repay that 1 billion dollar loan."

6. Mechanic: "What in the world was the wisdom for us walking out verses working day to day? Let the company force us out -- at least we were getting a pay check. As far back as I can remember, almost every contract we worked day to day until an agreement was met. As we walked out (Oct. 5), everyone around the parking lot said this, as well as 'Why are we walking?'

"I can only hope that someone involved in the negotiations knows that this move is the wise thing to do tactically. I would like to retire on my own terms and when I'm ready to, but if this goes on much longer I will be forced to go early. I remember when Huntsville (Ala.) came up last contract, the union dropped it like a hot potato, but did offer to relocate employees. I hope because they want to close Goodyear plants, the union is taking a tough stand.

"I also asked people at the shelter where we met before going out to our strike locations if we get paid for picketing. None could tell us yes or no. I hope the strike is over quickly, as many people will be hurt, and bad feelings between hourly and salary workers will increase and may never be mended.

"Union power is weak these days because of the Republican Party slowly eliminating unions and turning public opinion against us. Neighbors laugh when you tell them that you have to pay for some of your benefits or medical, when they’re paying for all of their’s. In closing, God bless all of you involved in negotiations, and may both sides realize the consequences."

7. Former plant worker: "Union, you are in dire straits. I remember working at the Jackson, Mich., plant and going through strikes in the late '50s and '60s! The net result is the plant is closed and 2,000+ workers are without jobs! You ask and ask for more, but with present conditions you need to look closely at the long-term results of the contract issues! I will tell you that I left Goodyear before the plant closed, but can remember well the hardships strikes cause! Many of my old friends struggle day to day as a result of that plant's closing!"

8. Maintenance, Bridgestone Firestone: "To all of my brothers and sisters at Goodyear, we at Firestone stand behind you at this critical time in our futures. You at Goodyear and us at Firestone are in a struggle for our very existence. Our fight is one we cannot turn our backs on; there is far too much at stake!

"I understand how these companies feel -- they can gut our contracts and subject us all to massive concessions, the political climate is ripe for raiding hard-earned contract provisions, big business is the favored child in Washington, D.C., these days. I want all Goodyear employees to know, we at Firestone stand in solidarity with you, our brothers and sisters, after all, we are next!"