Union update: Steelworkers at odds with Michelin, CTNA and BFNT

July 26, 2004

Here´s where the United Steelworkers of America (USWA) stand in relations with Michelin North America Inc. (MNA), Continental Tire North America Inc.(CTNA) and Bridgestone/Firestone North American Tire LLC (BFNT).

* MNA: Progress in contract talks between Steelworkers and MNA regarding the company´s Tuscaloosa and Opelika, Ala., and Fort Wayne, Ind., plants appears to have hit a snag.

Earlier this month, USWA representatives made a proposal to MNA that was rejected by the company.

The proposal was based on the union´s 10-month-old contract with Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., which USWA members voted to be its "pattern agreement" for talks with other tiremakers.

Union officials say that MNA then presented its Company Offer of Settlement, which called for elimination of retiree medical benefits for employees hired in the future, reduced vacation time, and other concessions.

"It is apparent that we are in for a fight," USWA officials said in the union´s Negotiation News bulletin released on July 16.

"We feel it is inappropriate to publicly discuss the settlement offer while negotiations are underway," MNA said in an official statement.

Meanwhile, MNA is engaged in separate negotiations with Steelworkers regarding its Kitchener, Ontario, plant, where workers have been picketing since June 1.

* CTNA: The USWA suffered a blow this past Saturday when workers at CTNA´s Mount Vernon, Ill., plant decided to keep the facility non-union by a 807-747 vote.

A majority vote of more than 50% would have given the USWA the right to start negotiating a collective bargaining agreement with CTNA.

Some 1,200 employees at the factory would have been covered by such a contract, according to union officials.

Last week, Steelworkers filed a charge with the National Labor Relations Board that accused CTNA of trying to "intimidate" Mount Vernon workers from unionizing by suspending tire production at its Mayfield, Ky., plant.

USWA officials are calling the suspension -- which is slated to take place by the end of 2004 -- "illegal."

A CTNA spokesperson says Mayfield and Mount Vernon "are two totally separate issues."

The union has made previous unsuccessful attempts to unionize Mount Vernon. CTNA´s plants in Bryan, Ohio, and Charlotte, N.C., are unionized.

The company is more than half-way into its six-year contract with the USWA that expires in 2006.

* BFNT: Negotiations between the USWA and BFNT remain where they left off last November -- at a standstill.

"Our offer hasn´t changed," a BFNT spokesman told mtdealer.com this afternoon.

"There are no discussions, unfortunately. We can´t get them back to the table."

BFNT factories currently operating without a contract inclue Des Moines, Iowa; Warren County, Tenn.; Oklahoma City, Okla.; La Vergne, Tenn.; and a small facility in Akron, Ohio, that produces racing tires.

BFNT´s Bloomington, Ill., plant is unionized, but not part of the company´s master contract with the USWA.