Labor wised up just in time at Goodyear's Union City, Tenn., tire plant when the union local accepted a continuous operations pact on March 7. At first, the rank-and-file at the tire plant told Goodyear to ``take this job and shove it,'' by rejecting the company's demand to change the work schedule. It seemed to be a bold, gutsy move by United Steelworkers of America Local 878. Working under an around-the-clock schedule is repellant to many people, and the union wasn't going to knuckle under to what it perceived to be a blackmail attempt by the company.
Goodyear had shown the 2,650 production workers both the carrot and the stick.
The company promised to spend $60 million on the plant in the next five years and add 500 jobs if the factory went to an around-the-clock schedule. That's the kind of investment needed to ensure the 30-year-old factory's continued viability.
And if the union rejected the continuous operations schedule?
Goodyear was ready to immediately move some production to other factories, lay off 310 workers and cancel the investment. The long-term future of the plant certainly would be in doubt.
Goodyear is a multinational business operating in a highly competitive market. If that means, as one union official complained, using "intimidation and hostage methods" to get its way, then that's what the company will do for its greater good.
The majority of the union members believed Goodyear was bluffing. They were wrong: After the initial contract rejection, the company began dismantling equipment.
In the second vote the union approved the changes and acknowledged a fact of life: Goodyear doesn't bluff.