At least give Continental General Tire Inc. this: It has a strategy.
Rightly or not, critics knocked the old General Tire in the past for a lack of direction. They won't be able to do that now, not with Bernd Frangenberg in charge of the Continental A.G. subsidiary.
Frangenberg's making plans, and is committed to sticking to them. As he discussed in a recent interview, he wants Conti General to concentrate on product quality, and he'll make a big effort to communicate with employees-whether they like his ideas or not.
The president also declares he'll be forthright with Conti General workers about how the company's doing. No ``good spins'' on bad news.
Frangenberg is an admitted ``hands-on'' manager, and is likely to put his stamp on most areas of the company. His belief is that with hard work, just about anything can be accomplished.
General-which hasn't been profitable, operates in a fiercely competitive market segment and has suffered from a poor reputation with its employees and customers-needs a new direction. To that end, Frangenberg is saying the right things.
On paper, the planned mega-merger that will unite rubber, auto and steel workers with machinists looks good for the union members.
Size can bring strength, particularly for a union. Therefore, logic dictates that affiliation with a bigger organization could give the former URW locals more clout.
Logic may not have much of a say, however, in how things turn out.
The Rubber Workers certainly could benefit from the improved strike fund available from a larger organization. But it's still Rubber Workers vs. companies, and the companies are in the driver's seat today.
The most important effect of the union combination-just like the recent URW merging into the Steelworkers union-is in organizing. The union movement's organizing efforts are very weak, and at least the three unions planning to merge won't be fighting each other for members.
Still, until unions can point to concrete benefits from membership-and victories at the bargaining table-union participation and influence will continue to decline.