MORRISON, Tenn.-United Steelworkers Local 1155 members approved a new contract with Bridgestone/Firestone by a wide margin after initially rejecting virtually the same agreement.
The nearly 800 members of Local 1155 at the firm´s Warren County truck and bus tire plant voted by a 74-percent margin in favor of the deal, in voting that ended July 25. The workers turned down the proposal by an 85-percent margin June 17, and issued a five-day strike notice that could have resulted in a walkout July 22.
But that notice was withdrawn when the local decided to revote on the proposal.
"Our members asked us to revisit the issues one more time," said Van Tenpenny, Local 1155 financial secretary. The leadership of Local 1155 had recommended against the contract proposal before the initial vote, but put up the pact without recommendation this time.
A BFS spokesman said the firm was pleased the contract was ratified by such a large margin. "Our goal was to get a contract that was good for both sides," he said. "The important thing now is for everyone to come together and focus on the future, and do everything we can to be successful in a competitive global environment."
BFS reached contract agreements affecting more than 5,000 workers at seven other company tire and rubber plants last month. The Warren County contingent was among the locals included in the negotiations, although their pact is separate from the master contract covering six of the factories.
Local 1155 leadership had balked at the offer at that time because they believed it was substandard for what their workers do, especially given the Warren County factory´s profitability. Production rates, mandatory overtime, vacation money and pay for working 12-hour shifts were among the main sticking points.
The contracts run through July 23, 2006, thus lining up with previous contracts the USW ratified with Goodyear and Michelin North America Inc.´s BFGoodrich tire units.
Tenpenny said he expects job outsourcing to be one of the main issues when the two sides return to the bargaining table next year. "It´s an issue with all of us and needs to be completely addressed," he said. "The U.S. economy can´t withstand more manufacturing jobs leaving. The line will have to be drawn and the battle will have to be fought."
The BFS spokesman said the issue of job security is one that both sides need to work on together. "The issue for all of us is the same," he said. "How to make world-class products at competitive prices. If we can work together in a way to make us the most competitive tire maker in the world, job security will take care of itself."
Opened in 1990, BFS has capacity to produce 7,200 truck and bus tires daily at the Warren County facility.