They haven't signed on the dotted line yet, but the long-and we do mean long-labor dispute between the United Steelworkers of America and Titan International Inc. at the Des Moines, Iowa, tire plant looks to end soon. If it does, the two sides will have as much work promoting the healing process as they did in opposing each other.
The lengthiest strike in tire industry history-39 months so far-has been a nasty affair. USWA Local 164's 670 members walked out when the previous contract expired, hoping to regain some of the benefits they had when Pirelli Armstrong Tire Corp. owned the agricultural tire facility. Morry Taylor, Titan president and CEO, would have none of it, and brought in strikebreakers.
Charges and countercharges have been lobbed back and forth by both parties since then. The union has filed complaints with the National Labor Relations board; fired off press releases every time Titan recorded a bad financial report; violated picket-line injunctions; and seemed to be behind a shareholders' suit against Titan. For his part, Taylor hasn't held back in his complaints about the union and has charged the union with a RICO organized crime violation. The parties were so far apart, they didn't even meet at one point for a year and a half.
Now the sides have come to agreement on several issues. That's a gigantic step forward in this awful dispute and, God willing, a short hop to a final contract. If ever there was a factory that needed to return to peaceful times, it's Des Moines.
The wounds in this dispute are deep. It's time they began the healing.