PITTSBURGH (Nov. 22) — United Steelworkers negotiators may have walked away from the bargaining table with Goodyear Nov. 17, but the union has increased its effort to take its fight with the company to shareholders and customers.
Contract talks between the company and union have been rare and unproductive since about 15,000 USW members working at 16 U.S. and Canadian Goodyear sites went on strike Oct. 5. After both sides returned to the bargaining table in Cincinnati Nov. 14, the union left three days later, saying there was no point in talking unless Goodyear "has something different to tell us."
Now the USW has started what it calls a "public awareness" campaign against the Akron tire maker, condemning the company´s use of replacement workers, criticizing its borrowing of money to offset costs during the strike and poking holes in Goodyear's financial disclosures, including its Nov. 9 third-quarter report.
The union started the campaign with demonstrations at area tire stores in selected cities during the weekend of Nov. 18-19, passing out handbills abut potential tire safety problems associated with plants using replacement workers.
The USW´s strategy of making public their concerns also includes radio and television advertisements, which ran over the past week, a spokesman said.
On Nov. 20, the union also issued a release pointing out that several credit rating agencies had less-than-stellar grades for Goodyear´s decision to borrow $1 billion in notes to address costs associated with the strike. The company announced the offer on three- and five-year senior notes on Nov. 16 and closed it Nov. 21.
The USW said Fitch Ratings gave Goodyear´s debt a CCC+ rating, which indicates "default is a real possibility and (the company´s) capacity for meeting financial commitments is solely reliant upon sustained, favorable business or economic conditions," according to the agency. Standard & Poor´s gave the notes a B- rating.
The union also said it is launching a new Web site geared to inform investors about Goodyear financial news relevant to shareholders and the investment community. The site is called Goodyear Alert (www.usw.org/goodyearalert) and includes "Investor Alerts," newsletters detailing the company´s financial state and decisions.
The most recent Investor Alert examined and critiqued the company's third quarter disclosure, its most recent proposal to the union and a four-point strategic plan for handling the strike. Goodyear´s plan involves maintaining supply with salaried and temporary workers, maintaining communication with its customers, drawing down its revolver to insure a strong cash position and keeping direct communication with the Steelworkers, the union said.
No new talks are scheduled between the two sides as of Nov. 22. The USW said it will continue to ramp up its public campaign throughout the holiday season.