It's time for the United Rubber Workers union to give up its strike against Bridgestone/Firestone Inc.
It's over. The URW has lost, and it should accept the best deal it can get and return to work, before it's too late. If it's not too late already.
The facts are Bridgestone/Firestone today is hiring replacement workers for the 3,400 striking URW members; seven plants are at full capacity and the three striking plants are operating, at least at 50 percent of production; and, thanks to shipments from Bridgestone Corp. facilities in Japan, the company's ability to supply its customers hasn't been stifled.
Bridgestone/Firestone fashioned a no-lose situation right from the start.
The terms the Japanese-owned company seeks differ radically from the contracts its competitors in the U.S. have with the URW. If the URW accepted this contract, Bridgestone/Firestone could run its plants as it sees fit. But if the union chose to strike, the company was prepared to hold out and replace the strikers if needed.
Apparently, Bridgestone/Firestone also had the financial resources to beat the union. Bridgestone Corp. has said it is losing $10 million a month at the striking plants, yet still will exceed its forecast of a $10 million profit for Bridgestone/Firestone for 1994. If it weren't for the strike-related losses, the U.S. subsidiary would have had a fairly decent year.
Bridgestone/Firestone is willing to take a financial hit because of the strike, but unwilling to spend that money to sweeten the pot for the union. Compromise is not on the agenda for the company.
For the URW, this strike could be a watershed in its relations with all the major tire makers.
If the union continues to strike, the replacement workers will take its members' jobs and the URW's power will erode further.
But if the URW now surrenders and accepts Bridgestone/Firestone's demands, the other tire makers surely will seek similar terms in the next round of negotiations. Already, General Tire has asked for contract changes at its Charlotte, N.C., plant.
The days when the Bridgestone/Firestone-URW relationship was a model of cooperation are gone. The striking locals should follow the lead of their Akron brethren, Local 7, and acquiesce.
And then prepare for the next, inevitable assault on the union's status.