LA VERGNE, Tenn. (Aug. 30) — A negative vote by union members at Bridgestone/Firestone's LaVergne tire plant on a proposed production incentive plan has left the facility there vulnerable to closure.
On Aug. 23, more than 68 percent of the voting members of United Steelworkers Local 1055 rejected an incentive program tied to improved productivity at the plant. Passage of the plan, which would have allowed participating tire builders to earn bonus money up to 20 percent above their wage rate, also would have given the plant security from closure into July 2009.
Between 320 and 340 workers within the tire-building sector would have been affected by the incentive program, according to Scott Smith, recording secretary for Local 1055. The union represents about 1,600 members in LaVergne.
During master contract negotiations between BFS/USW in 2006-2007, the company told the union that the tire operation was losing money and thus could not offer job security through the life of the upcoming contract. BFS said to remain competitive and viable, the plant's production would have to improve, and the two sides agreed that an incentive program would be established to achieve that goal.
Under the contract terms, the workers would get a chance to vote on the issue within 120 days of the master contract's ratification, which took place in late April.
Now that the vote has been taken and the deadline passed, BFS now is not obligated to protect the LaVergne plant — which has been operating since 1972 and employs about 1,700 — or invest part of $100 million slated for "protected" facilities, according to a company spokesman.
No decisions have been made regarding LaVergne's long-term future, the spokesman said.