The United Steelworkers believe Goodyear owes it, and it's payback time. Note to the union: Good luck on that one.
Three years ago when the last master contract was being negotiated, the union accepted the company's demand that a tire plant had to go. The 34-year-old Huntsville, Ala., factory-one of the Dunlop facilities Goodyear bought from Sumitomo Rubber Industries Ltd.-was sacrificed, along with 1,300 jobs.
Goodyear was hurting financially at the time, and labeled the plant inefficient and high cost. The Steelworkers negotiated away the factory in the name of helping the company right itself and securing jobs elsewhere.
This time around in the master contract talks the union expected some consideration for its previous actions. It hasn't happened-which is why the Steelworkers struck 16 Goodyear plants-and certainly won't in the future.
The union and Goodyear both are in a fight for survival, but it's not the same fight. The Steelworker's stated negotiating goals are all about continuing tire production in the U.S., such as getting the company to invest in the factories to make them globally competitive, getting successorship clauses in the event of a plant sale, eliminating contracting out of work.
Goodyear's stance is different. The firm wants to make tires as cheaply and efficiently as possible, and where it makes them doesn't matter. Why pump money into a U.S. site for general-purpose tires when production can be done at a fraction of the cost in a developing nation, where wages and benefits are much less? Such is life in the global marketplace.
The tire maker already has announced the closing of its Tyler, Texas, plant, proving it can get its way.
Goodyear never promised it would give the Steelworkers any consideration for past sacrifices. The company's prime stakeholders are its customers and shareholders. Union members are far down the list.