QUINCY, Ill. (Feb. 3) — Tire and wheel maker Titan International Inc. has reached an agreement with the United Steelworkers union in a civil racketeering case originally filed in September 2000.
The case — which stemmed from long labor disputes at Titan tire facilities in Des Moines, Iowa, and Natchez, Miss. — was dismissed on Feb. 1, in a Springfield, Ill., federal court.
Quincy, Ill.-based Titan filed its $240 million lawsuit against the then-United Steelworkers of America and more than 130 of its officers and members in September 2000, alleging their actions during strikes in Des Moines and Natchez violated the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.
In the suit, Titan alleges the USWA and its members "implemented a massive conspiracy to extort money" and conspired to "receive income from a pattern of racketeering activity" against the company. Titan claims USWA members made bomb threats, committed acts of physical violence and property damage, filed baseless workers´ compensation claims and interfered with the company´s business relations.
A federal judge of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois in Springfield twice denied USWA motions for dismissal, once in October 2001 and once in July 2003. The USWA had maintained in labor charges against the company that the lawsuit was frivolous and was an act of retaliation against the union after the strikes — the longest in tire industry history — at the Titan tire plants.
"This disagreement started with the (Des Moines) strike on May 1, 1998, and it has been a real fight," said Maurice Taylor Jr., Titan chairman and CEO. "There´s no question that both parties were putting a lot of passion and money into this lawsuit."
Taylor said Titan believed it would have been successful, but during negotiations with Goodyear on buying its North American farm tire business — which was finalized in December — it became clear to him that Titan and the USW have a common goal: American jobs that pay fair wages and benefits.
"Titan agrees with that, but Titan believes it runs the factories, and if you pay for eight hours of work, you should get eight hours of work," Taylor said.
"The future looks bright and working with the Steelworkers, we will be a force to reckon with...I believe everyone will be happy that we together put the swords down and are moving on."