QUINCY, Ill.-Tire and wheel maker Titan International Inc. has reached an agreement with the United Steelworkers union ending a civil racketeering case filed in September 2000.
Titan agreed to a dismissal of the case-which stemmed from long labor disputes at Titan tire facilities in Des Moines, Iowa, and Natchez, Miss.-and the Steelworkers dropped an unfair labor practice complaint against the company.
The racketeering case was dismissed Feb. 1 in a Springfield, Ill., federal court.
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. The Quincy-based company alleged the union´s actions during strikes in Des Moines and Natchez violated the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.
In the suit, Titan alleged 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 claimed 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.
Titan also had said that under federal racketeering laws, a judgment against the union may have carried treble damages, meaning a victory could have been worth more than $720 million.
Judge Jeanne Scott 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 again in July 2003. This time both sides agreed to have the case-which had gone through a lengthy discovery period-dismissed, and jointly filed for the lawsuit´s end Jan. 30.
As part of the agreement, the USW withdrew an unfair labor practice complaint against Titan with the National Labor Relations Board alleging the suit was frivolous and an act of retaliation against the union after the strikes at the Titan tire plants. They were the longest in tire industry history, lasting from 1998 into 2001.
"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."
The union opposed the Titan suit every step of the way, said USW President Leo Gerard, and "never gave an inch."
"I´m pleased this is finally over with absolutely no payment of money, let alone any hint of wrongdoing by any defendant, and we now look forward to an improved relationship with Titan," Gerard said.
Taylor said Titan believed it would have been successful. But during negotiations with Goodyear on buying its North American farm tire business-completed 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."
Neither side gave further details on the reasons for the dismissal.
As part of the Goodyear deal, Titan reached a five-year contract agreement with the union workers at the former Goodyear farm tire plant in Freeport, Ill. Workers at Titan´s Des Moines plant also inked a contract extension with the company aligning its lapse date with that of the Freeport site. Both pacts expire Nov. 19, 2010.
Titan mothballed the Natchez tire plant in 2001, and never reopened it.