Goodyear's offer to the United Steelworkers of America of a seat on its board of directors is a gesture, rather than something substantial. That doesn't mean it's a bad idea from either the company or union viewpoint.
Union representation on a company board is not a common occurrence in this country, unlike in Europe, where in some places-Germany, for example-it's encouraged via legislation. Here it either occurs in conjunction with employee stock ownership plans or when a company is distressed financially.
The second example certainly describes Goodyear's status. Circumstances, poor decisions and bad luck have placed the company on the brink of disaster. And the union, too, since if Goodyear goes down, so do more union jobs.
The Steelworkers historically have placed representatives on steel company boards. This would be the first time a union official became a tire company director, and the USWA must see some value in doing that.
Concrete value, no. Having a union member on boards hasn't kept the U.S. steel industry from sliding into an awful state that rivals the poor condition of the tire business.The airlines industry is another sector that often has union reps as directors, and that's another unhealthy business.
The best the union could hope for with a representative on Goodyear's board is a chance to see which way the wind is blowing. Decisions that could hurt the union membership might be learned about earlier. It would be unreasonable to believe the union director would have any real influence on the board.
For Goodyear, agreeing to place a union member on its board is a bargaining chip that has no particular upside, but no real downside, either. It's bound to convince some union members to vote in favor of the tentative agreement. That's reason enough to do it.