USWA Begins Strike Preparation
(Akron/TR) The United Steelworkers of America union (USWA) has announced that it has begun conducting strike preparation meetings with employees at Bridgestone/Firestone North American Tire (BFNAT) plants.
Meetings have been held today with union workers at BFNAT plants in Des Moines, Iowa, LaVerge, Tennessee, and Russellville, Arkansas. Strike preparation meetings will be schedule “within the next two weeks” with workers at BFNAT facilities in Akron, Ohio, Nobelsville, Indianan, Bloomington, Illinois, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and Warren County, Tennessee. However, the union must give BFNAT 72-hour notice if it intends to initiate a strike.
The announcement follows a stall in negotiations over a new master contract. The union expected BFNAT to follow the contract it negotiated with Goodyear as the pattern for the North American industry. Instead, BFNAT refused to accept the terms of the Goodyear deal. Negotiations broke down in November 2003, and no talks were held until this past December. Even after the nearly 12-month break, both sides appear very far apart.
“In negotiations, the company still resists our demands that it grow and invest in our plants in order to secure the future of our plants and increase their share of new and higher margin products,” said USWA executive vice president John Sellers. “There’s no way that our members will accept a contract that allows BFNAT to export our jobs and replace our production with imports and goods produced at non-union plants.” The USWA claims BFNAT intends to shift tyre production offshore, and is “starving” the US plants “of capital.”
“It appears that BFNAT is looking to gain an unfair competitive advantage in the North American market,” said Mr Sellers. “The Goodyear and Michelin master agreement promises our members no plant closures and guaranteed employment levels.”
The USWA (then the United Rubber Workers of America) struck BFNAT plants in 1994. That acrimonious strike ended in 1996 when a three-year deal was signed. Negotiations on a master contract in 1999 went right to the wire, but no job action resulted.