union workers, AFL-CIO protest Goodyear tire stores
By Nate Jenkins, AP
St Paul Pioneer Press
Sunday, December 17, 2006
-- Union members
battling Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. took their picket lines
to tire retailers across the country on Saturday as part of
an effort to gain leverage in talks with the company.
About 50 members of a Lincoln, Neb., chapter of United
Steelworkers protested at two Goodyear retailers here,
decrying the company's use of replacement workers during the
2-month-old strike. About 150 additional rallies were
planned in the United States and Canada.
"We know what it takes to build tires, and unskilled workers
just can't do it. We do not want the general public riding
their lives on temporary workers," said Gary Schaefer, 54,
vice president of the United Steelworkers Local 286 in
Lincoln and a 34-year employee of Goodyear.
Members stood along a busy street, carrying signs with
pictures of flat tires that read, "Recklessly driving
experienced workers off the job."
Leo Gerard, USW international president, visited with
strikers Saturday in the Cleveland suburb of Parma, Ohio,
and planned a stop in Akron, where Goodyear is based.
Gerard said the point of the protests is to tell consumers
about what the union believes is unfair treatment by
plans to slash health care and retirement benefits.
stealing the money out of our retirees' pockets," Gerard
Goodyear spokesman Ed Markey said the protests do not affect
plans to return to the bargaining table. Negotiations are
scheduled to resume Monday in Pittsburgh, the first talks
since meetings broke off Nov. 17.
"Our goals in the negotiations remains the same, and that is
to reach a fair agreement that enables us to be competitive
and win with our customers," he said.
The company's temporary workers are qualified and received
the same training as all new employees, Markey said.
"Goodyear will never compromise quality," he said. "We have
had quality systems in place and dedicated experts to run
those systems since before the strike began. Additionally,
every tire we make is screened for quality before it leaves
About 15,000 workers are on strike at 12 U.S. and four
Canadian plants, counting union members on layoff, sick
leave or other time off. In Alabama, the strike includes
the Gadsden plant. Goodyear workers went on strike Oct. 5
after talks broke down on a new contract.
Since the strike began, Goodyear has been making tires at
some of its North American plants with nonunion and
temporary workers as well as some managers and relying on
production at its international plants to help supply North
In Lincoln, Ted Kastl, 56, who has worked for Goodyear 35
years, was hopeful that the storefront protests would force
the company's hand.
"I think this could lead to us getting what we want. It
will put more pressure on Goodyear to get things resolved,"
Striking workers have found it difficult to make ends meet,
but $50-a-week payments from the union for groceries and gas
have helped, said 20-year employee Kurt Bomberger, 43.
The union's strike fund could drop below $100 million if the
dispute drags into March, Gerard said, at which time all
members would be asked to contribute $5 to fill the coffers
and support striking workers.
In suburban Pittsburgh, more than 80 people handed out
fliers and urged holiday shoppers driving past a Goodyear
service center at a mall to honk in support of Goodyear
employees. Most drivers obliged.
"I'd say (we're getting) a lot of support, and that's what
we're doing: educating the public on what the dispute is
about," said John Sellers, a retired Steelworkers official.
The Steelworkers there were joined by members of the AFL-CIO
and American Federation of Teachers.
AFL-CIO President John Sweeney said the labor group's
decision to join forces with the USW for Saturday's protests
was a statement by working people to Goodyear and other
"We're going to hold the line for the nation's middle
class. Working people everywhere have been pushed to the
brink by giant multinational conglomerates like Goodyear,"
Sweeney said. "We're going to push back."
Although Goodyear has no manufacturing plants in Utah, about
two dozen people from local unions, workers' rights and
social service groups turned out for the protest in Salt
Lake City. They waived signs along a busy thoroughfare and
chanted, "Goodyear, broken promises don't fly."
"It's a solidarity meeting," said activist Archie Archuleta,
a retired teacher and union member. "Wherever union workers
are on strike we try to support them."
Goodyear has said it intends to close its Tyler, Texas, tire
plant by next year because the company is ending production
of low-profit private-label tires. The union wants all
plants protected from closing.
The USW also strongly
objected to a company proposal for creating a retirees'
health care trust, which the union argues shortchanges
Goodyear executives have said they are seeking a contract
that will help the company be globally competitive. The
company has said its offer protects wages, proposes upgrades
to union plants and offers a plan to provide health care
coverage for retirees.
Associated Press writers
Dan Nephin in Monroeville, Pa., Jennifer Dobner in Salt Lake
City and Rachel Hoag in Columbus, Ohio, contributed to this