PITTSBURGH—United Steelworkers negotiators 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 negotiations 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 begun what it calls a "public awareness" campaign against the Akron tire maker. It is 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.
Goodyear didn´t return calls seeking comment.
The union started the campaign with demonstrations at tire stores in selected cities during the weekend of Nov. 18-19, passing out handbills about potential tire safety problems associated with plants using strikebreakers.
"We want the company´s customers to know there are risks involved, that there can be reduced quality with replacements, while veteran, experienced tire makers are out on the street," a USW spokesman said.
The union´s strategy of making public their concerns also includes radio and television advertisements, which began running over the past week or so, the spokesman said.
On Nov. 20, the union 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, which means the company has the capacity to meet its obligation but "adverse business, financial or economic conditions will likely impair (its) capacity or willingness to meet its financial commitment."
USW President Leo Gerard said Goodyear already is spending $5 million a day to fund a strike "it cannot win," and now has decided to "put the pedal to the metal in its race to drive itself over a financial cliff."
The union also said it is launching a Web site to inform investors about Goodyear financial news relevant to shareholders and the investment community.
No new talks are scheduled.