The plot thickens.
Did Bridgestone Corp. import workers from Japan and Brazil to replace union workers on strike at Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. plants in the U.S.?
``Ludicrous,'' said a Bridgestone/Firestone spokesman, who challenged the union to produce evidence after George Becker, United Steelworkers of America president, made the charge.
It took weeks of prodding, but the union finally did provide something-a quote in the Bureau of National Affairs ``Daily Labor Report'' by Bridgestone Corp. President Yoichiro Kaizaki, in which he said the company sent workers to the U.S. from Japan and Brazil.
One problem. Bridgestone/Firestone says Kaizaki was misquoted in the report: He said the manufacturer sent tires, not workers, to the U.S.
The Tokyo-based reporter who wrote the story is ``unavailable'' to respond, according to the BNA.
Now the Steelworkers have come back with specific charges.
The union claims Bridgestone transferred 50 to 75 mid-level production workers in August 1994 from Brazil to replace striking union members at the firm's Des Moines, Iowa, plant; and on Aug. 14, 1994, flew in another 50 production workers from Bridgestone's Shimonoseki, Japan, facility to the Des Moines tire factory.
Bridgestone/Firestone says that's bunk.
The company has a ``foreign-exchange program'' between its plants, in which a couple of people transfer between sites for short-term training purposes, one to two months. But the tire maker said it never brought people in at the numbers the union says. Nor, the company reiterates, were any workers brought in as strikebreakers.
So what really happened?
Either these workers came to the U.S. on a normal exchange program that Bridgestone conducts, or were flown in as strikebreakers (which could be illegal). The Steelworkers claim its evidence is visa information obtained from the government. But the union has declined to provide any documents to the press, saying it's compiling more evidence.
Someone is mistaken, confused or lying. It's time hard evidence is produced, so the truth can be told.