Pact grants plants 'protected' status

Sept. 15, 2003

The new, three-year labor contract between Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. and the United Steelworkers of America (USWA) provides "an intricate network of job security protections for USWA members by designating 13 of the facilities as 'protected plants,'" say union officials.

Under the agreement:

1. Protected plants "must under all but the most extreme circumstances remain open during the term (of the contract) and minimum staffing levels must be maintained;"

2. Transfer of production from a protected plant to a non-union factory is restricted;

3. Protected plants must be given "meaningful and significant first consideration and preference for all new products developed for sale in North America;"

4. Goodyear "must give the same consideration to USWA facilities when designating capital expenditures for increasing capacity or (modernizing) facilities for production of products for sale principally in North America."

"We made it clear that for there to be a contract, our plants would stay open and capital expenditures would be made to keep them globally competitive," says USWA Executive Vice President John Sellers.

The tire and engineered products manufacturing facilities that will enjoy protected status include: Gadsden, Ala.; Buffalo, N.Y.; St. Marys, Ohio; Lincoln, Neb.; Topeka, Kan.; Freeport, Ill.; Tyler, Texas; Danville, Va.; Marysville, Ohio; Union City, Tenn.; Sun Prairie, Wis.; Fayetteville, N.C.; and Akron/Green, Ohio.

Goodyear "had initially planned to substantially reduce North American production by closing a number of plants and downsizing several others," reveal USWA officials.

"That production was scheduled for transfer off-shore with capital investments earmarked for foreign and non-union domestic facilities."

Goodyear remains on schedule to close its Huntsville, Ala., plant. All production there will be transferred to other union factories.

Steelworkers won other concessions via the contract:

* Goodyear will reduce its salaried staffing level ("at both corporate headquarters and on the shop floor") by 115% of bargaining unit reduction as of the end of December 2002;

* imports will be restricted;

* "the use of outside contractors will be greatly curtailed;"

* the USWA will get a seat on Goodyear's board of directors, a first in the tire industry;

* limits on executive compensation, both in base salaries and stock options.

Union officials admit they've made concessions, as well, including co-pay increases for medicine and wage freezes.

"There are no wage increases in this contract," says a USWA spokesman. "But there is a (new) profit-sharing plan" from which Steelworkers will benefit "when the company returns to profitability."