Goodyear Contract Talks Collapse, Employees Strike

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At least 15,000 Goodyear workers are off the job as strikes begin at plants in 10 states and Canada. As Daniel Hockensmith of member station WKSU reports, talks between labor and management fell apart Thursday.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Today's business news starts with a work stoppage. Fifteen thousand Goodyear workers walked off the job at plants in 10 states and Canada yesterday after contract talks collapsed. Both sides are digging in for a long standoff.

For member station WKSU, Daniel Hockensmith reports.

DANIEL HOCKENSMITH: Officials with the United Steel Workers Union say Goodyear left them no choice but to strike after its most recent offer. Union spokesperson Wayne Ranick says the union felt the company disregarded concessions on wages, pensions and health benefits made by workers during contract talks in 2003.

During that earlier round of negotiations, the union agreed to the closure of a tire plant in Alabama. The recent talks bogged down over Goodyear's plans to close union-operated plants in Alabama and Texas.

Mr. WAYNE RANICK (Spokesman, United Steel Workers Union): The company's last offer still did not provide protection for all the plants involved in these negotiations.

Mr. HOCKENSMITH: Goodyear officials were unavailable for a recorded interview, but Jim Allen, the company's chief negotiator, says in a written statement, quote, “We simply cannot accept a contract that knowingly creates a competitive disadvantage versus our foreign-owned competition and increases our cost disadvantage versus imports.”

Goodyear officials emphasized that their final offer to the union included provisions for job security at plants continuing in operation, as well as security for retiree medical benefits and pension credits.

The Wall Street Journal reports Goodyear will use salaried workers as part of its plan to fill customer orders during the strike.

For NPR News, I'm Daniel Hockensmith in Akron, Ohio.

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