NEW YORK—The United Steelworkers union is taking its labor fight with Goodyear to one of the tire maker´s most noteworthy partners-NASCAR-in an effort to raise awareness about the now two-month-old strike at 16 company locations.
A group of USW members from 10 Goodyear plants and other union officials went to various sites in New York associated with NASCAR´s end-of-the-year Champions Week, which culminated with its awards banquet the evening of Dec. 1 at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.
The USW representatives targeted a series of events during the week, a USW spokesman said, including:
— the "Victory Lap," in which the Top 10 drivers in NASCAR´s Nextel Cup Series drove their cars around the streets of New York. The event was featured on ABC-TV´s "Good Morning America" program Nov. 29;
— "Pit Stops," locations spread throughout the city where racing fans could stop and get NASCAR-related information;
— a Nov. 30 luncheon at Cipriani restaurant in Manhattan attended by NASCAR officials, drivers and media; and
— the awards banquet.
The group of USW members passed out handbills and talked to racing fans and pedestrians. The handbills contained information about tire safety and Goodyear´s use of replacement workers at the production sites affected by the strike, a second union spokesman said.
Outside the NASCAR luncheon, the union group gave media members a list of questions to ponder, including why NASCAR officials and fans should be concerned about the Goodyear strike. The Akron tire maker is the racing organization´s exclusive tire supplier.
"We´re not trying to punish NASCAR," the first spokesman said. "Many of the members on strike are NASCAR fans themselves. But with safety being an issue and Goodyear being the sole supplier, NASCAR needs to be aware of what´s happening."
The night of the banquet, the USW set up a stage across the street from the Waldorf-Astoria and about 300 union members and supporters demonstrated and listened to a series of speeches from politicians, union officials and local members, the second spokesman said. One sympathizer who had a ticket to the banquet grabbed handbills and passed them out inside, he said.
"We´re very happy with how everything went," he said. "NASCAR knows we were there. We want to make their tires, and if we´re not, they should be concerned about what is being made there."
A Goodyear spokesman said NASCAR is a "terrific story for Goodyear, and a great example of our continuous focus on quality." He added that the last three races of the Nextel Cup season included tires made since the strike began, by salaried associates and temporary workers, and the "tires performed flawlessly."
"The same attention to quality for all tires is in place at all our factories, where 100 percent are screened for quality before they leave the plant," the spokesman said.
Jon Rich, president of Goodyear´s North American Tire unit, said he knows how important safety is with regards to tires supplied to NASCAR.
In a Nov. 21 letter to employees, he said, "You want to talk about quality? How important is quality when a 3,400-pound car heads into banked turn at around 200 mph? How important is quality when a NASCAR driver has to maneuver his speeding vehicle out of danger with a dozen others right behind his back bumper?"
More than 15,000 USW members went on strike at the Goodyear sites on Oct. 5, citing job security and retiree health care costs as the main sticking points among several issues. The company announced Oct. 30 it would close its Tyler, Texas, tire plant next year, and the two sides have been far apart on a dollar amount the firm would contribute to help fund health care costs for current and future retirees.
The USW´s campaign against Goodyear since the strike began also has included handbilling at company tire stores, public criticism of the use of replacement workers and the borrowing of money to help fund operations during the labor dispute, and the use of radio and TV advertising to get the pro-union message out.
One advertisement appearing on YouTube.com, entitled "Are Goodyear Tires Safe?"-which discussed the alleged link between replacement workers, defective tires and vehicle rollover accidents-had more than 34,000 hits as of Dec. 4. "We feel our message has been well-received and is certainly earning attention," the first USW spokesman said.
USW negotiators on Nov. 17 walked away from the only set of formal contract talks held since the strike began, claiming the company´s proposals hadn´t changed in a month´s time. No new bargaining sessions have been scheduled.
A summary of Goodyear´s most recent offer to the striking Steelworkers-dated Oct. 27-can be accessed at http://www.goodyearnegotiations.com/ updates.