The benefits of a practical, cooperative labor-management relationship are clearly evident at Kelly-Springfield Tire Co.'s Freeport, Ill., tire plant.
URW Local 745 members overwhelmingly agreed to a new three-year contract with the Goodyear subsidiary that will result in a major change in shifts to provide continuous operations. The new pact calls for 12-hour days on Saturdays and Sundays, with two eight-hour days during the week.
The direct benefit to the union is job security, in the form of a $17 million investment in radial light truck tire production at the plant. The URW said the company promised to hire as many as 500 workers because of the conversion to radials, the addition of the weekend shift and an earlier-announced expansion of radial rear farm tire production.
Both the URW and Kelly-Springfield acted logically in creating this deal.
The union's agreement to add the weekend shifts shows a willingness to change old ways to suit the company's new needs. The contract calls for volunteers for the weekend shift in the first year; the following year workers can be required to work those hours.
We question the value of 12-hour shifts for everyone: Would you want to buy a tire built by someone who already had been working for 11 straight hours? But some employees will thrive on it, and others reluctantly will accept the change. By making the shift voluntary for the first year, URW members have a chance to see if they like it. If they don't, they have a year to find another job.
It is telling that the Kelly local and management ignored the May 19 contract expiration and kept working for two days until they came up with an agreement. In a period when ill-conceived strikes and union-busting tactics are the rage, at least in Freeport cooperation rules.
GenCorp Inc. was wise to hold onto its Aerojet unit rather than take what it felt was a less than fair price for the struggling aerospace supplier.
But GenCorp must remember that most of the reasons it wanted to divest the unit still exist, so officials better be careful not to let Aerojet hold back its growing, more profitable automotive and polymer products businesses.