PITTSBURGH (May 1) — United Steelworkers officials plan to meet with Bridgestone/Firestone as soon as possible to begin talks regarding continuing manufacturing operations at the company´s Oklahoma City tire plant.
BFS announced April 28 it may close the facility by the end of the year because of global market forces making the plant "extremely difficult, if not impossible" to keep competitive. The company´s plan is to ramp down production no later than Oct. 31 and close the site no earlier than Dec. 31, the USW said.
BFS said in its announcement it was willing to negotiate with the union about the closure. The current contract between the two sides prohibits plant closures, but the pact expires in July.
The Oklahoma City plant makes radial passenger and light truck tires at the low end of the market, where competition is particularly intense and demand is shrinking, BFS said. But the USW believes the site may be used for other tire production, and intends "to explore every possible option," said Ron Hoover, USW executive vice president and head of the union´s Rubber/Plastic Industry Conference.
"We recognize that the long-term demand for the Oklahoma City product line is shrinking and that the competition of imports is vicious," Hoover said. "With the company´s plan to build a new aircraft tire facility in the U.S., I expect them to consider Oklahoma City as a location and to recognize that it has an experienced workforce at Local 998."
BFS said a closure at the plant, which began production in 1969, would affect more than 1,420 workers. More than 1,200 are USW members.
"This announcement amplifies the need of our elected officials to closely examine the trade policies that allow American industries to be destroyed by the flood of cheap imports," Hoover said. "Closures of this magnitude have a devastating impact on working American families and their communities."