Saturday, July 27, 2013

Goodyear-Union workers prepare for possible strike

With union workers at Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. saying they're poised to strike this weekend if necessary, some businesses surrounding Cumberland County's largest employer are bracing for the potential fallout.
"I'm scared," said Pyong Cho, the 48-year-old owner of Su's Subs in the Andrews Commons shopping center. "It will damage if they strike. That's why I'm a little bit scared ... I'm just waiting on what's going to happen."
Cho said 70 percent of his business is from plant workers.

Members of United Steelworkers Local 959, who make up the majority of the plant's 2,500 employees, were told earlier this week by their labor leadership that negotiations on a new contract are at an impasse and that they should be prepared for a possible strike Sunday, shortly after midnight.
In a statement posted online Wednesday at goodyear, the company said talks: "are progressing as expected. With the contract deadline quickly approaching, Goodyear is committed to working with the (union) to complete an agreement that is mutually beneficial to associates and allows for future growth for North America."
Face-to-face negotiations, which began in April, are being held between the two sides in Cincinnati.
The receptionist at the Local 959 office on Friday said local union officials would not comment. Just outside the building, a sign was posted that read, "Countdown to contract expiration - Days 2."
Steelworkers last went on strike at Goodyear for three months in 2006. That marked the second walkout in the plant's history, after a 17-day strike in 1997.
"You've got to stand strong or you'll lose something," said a 49-year-old shop steward. "If we need to stay out six months, nine months, we'll do it. As long as everybody stays out."
Plant employees interviewed for this story asked that their names not be used because they fear retaliation from the company.
The current, four-year labor agreement, which covers six North American plants, protected the Fayetteville plant from closure. Nationally, the contract covers about 8,000 workers, including the 2,500 hourly and salaried employees in Fayetteville. Other plants covered by it are in Akron; Buffalo, N.Y.; Gadsden, Ala.; Topeka, Kan.; and Danville, Va.
The Fayetteville plant is one of the highest-paying employers in the region.
"We make great money out there. Our benefits are great," said a 25-year-old worker who has been with Goodyear since 2007. "If they give us the same contract we have now, I'd be perfectly content with it."
But union members say Goodyear is determined to eliminate some of their work benefits.
"Honestly, Goodyear is pulling record profits the last two to two and a half years," the worker said. "We shouldn't have to make any concessions. If you're making money, you should share it. We're the guys on the floor."
Corporate spokesman Ed Markey declined to comment, other than to say "negotiations are continuing."
According to a "Solidarity Alert" flier distributed to union members this week, "little progress" has been made in negotiations on matters concerning wages, "grandfathering" provisions, health care, pensions and vacations.
Pensions a big issue
One of the pressing issues, a source has said, deals with Goodyear changing benefit pension plans to a defined contribution benefit plan for union workers to save the company money.
Last year, Goodyear's corporate office announced that it had contributed $454million to its U.S. pension plans and was looking into a liability-driven investing strategy. The investment strategy is used as a way to reduce volatility and improve funding status in pension plans.
Goodyear's salaried pension plans in the United States were frozen Dec. 31, 2008, and U.S. hourly pension plans were closed to new employees covered by the United Steelworkers master labor contract on Aug. 29, 2009.
"Every contract, we've got to come up with the same crazy crap. We're trying to keep what we've got," an employee said. "The company wants to take what we've got. We're not striking to get more; we're striking to keep what we've got."
If a tentative agreement is reached before midnight tonight, union members would have to ratify the agreement. That process could take a week or longer.
Barbara Rush manages a Marathon convenience store a few miles past the plant on U.S. 401. The store regularly caters to Goodyear employees before and after shift changes. They buy gas, sundries and food from the store's grill.
"Pretty much grin and bear it, and, hopefully, they'll work it out," Rush saiid of a possible strike. "It's gonna hurt us. Whenever they come in afternoons and evenings, they buy a lot of beer."

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