TEXARKANA, Ark. (April 7)—Negotiators for Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. and the United Steelworkers union have reached a tentative agreement on a new contract that would end a four-week strike at the company's Texarkana tire plant.
The two sides finalized the tentative deal April 6, and the executive board of USWA Local 752 unanimously approved it at about 9 p.m. that night, according to Don Davies, staff representative for USWA Local 752. Information meetings for the 1,600 members of USWA Local 752 will be held April 9, with a ratification vote scheduled for April 10, a union spokesman said.
The company and union hadn't met since a federal mediator was brought in March 24. Talks broke off afterwards and there had been a "complete deadlock" in negotiations, said Don Davies, staff representative for USWA District 12. The mediator called for another meeting the week of April 4, and the two sides decided to meet early on April 6 before the mediator arrived, he said. But the negotiators worked out the tentative pact without the mediator's help, Davies said.
Local 752 members walked out March 12, six days after the previous three-year contract expired. The union has said health care is the biggest sticking point in negotiations, with the company wanting increased premiums for less coverage and no medical retiree benefits for new employees.
Job security, job bidding and seniority, and cost-of-living allowances are among the other key elements of negotiations. Cooper and the USWA have a separate contract for hourly workers at the company's Findlay, Ohio, plant, which runs through October 2008.
Cooper halted tire production in Texarkana when the strike began, and hasn't restarted operations.