© 2024 Ideastream Public Media

1375 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio 44115
(216) 916-6100 | (877) 399-3307

WKSU is a public media service licensed to Kent State University and operated by Ideastream Public Media.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
To contact us with news tips, story ideas or other related information, e-mail newsstaff@ideastream.org.

Goodyear Workers on Strike

It's all eerily similar to the Goodyear contract negotiations of three years ago: the company was struggling, it wanted to close at least one plant, and it wanted workers to pay a share of their health care costs. This year the scenario is much the same - except now the world's largest tire company is doing fairly well - having picked up market share in the most important market, North America. Steelworkers spokesman Wayne Ranick.

Wayne Ranick: This year the company is doing better, they've rewarded others for the turnaround but from us they have demands for more concessions. They want to close more plants and more cuts in wages, health care, etc.

But company officials say they have to get leaner. Spokesman Ed Markey.

Ed Markey: Our negotiator Jim Allen says, we cannot accept a contract that knowingly creates a competitive disadvantage versus our foreign-owned competition and increases our cost disadvantage versus imports, and that's where we find ourselves.

Foreign competitors means all the big tire companies that once called Akron home. General Tire is now owned by the German company Continental, Firestone is part of the Japanese Bridgestone, and BF Goodrich is part of the French Michelin. Goodyear is the only one still headquartered in Ohio. The union, which represents workers at those companies as well, wants to use the Goodrich/Michelin contract reached in July as a pattern agreement for the entire industry. But both the steelworkers and Goodyear each claim the other side is offering less than that contract.

For Goodyear, it comes down to an issue for each wheel. Ed Markey:

Ed Markey: Health care costs are one of four key issues: health care, retiree medical, pensions and productivity are really the four key issues.

Union officials cite several complaints with Goodyear's latest proposal. They're not pleased Goodyear has offered pay increases for just 31% of their members. And they argue that they are still paying health care premiums while Goodrich/Michelin workers are not. But the biggest concern is likely plant closings. Three years ago the steelworkers agreed to the closure of a factory in Hunstville, Alabama. Now the company reportedly wants to close two more - one in Gadsden, Alabama and one in Tyler, Texas. Wayne Ranick says that's devastating to those communities and he recalls Henry Ford's idea of paying workers enough to buy his products.

Wayne Ranick: You're undermining the fabric of American heartland communities by thinking you can outsource all the work because where are the jobs that pay enough for people to buy the products that companies want to sell?

Goodyear officials say they will not need to layoff salaried workers during the strike. And in fact said use some to keep plants going during the strike. The company is one of the biggest in Ohio. In Akron about 500 of its employees will be on strike. Mark Urycki, 90.3.