FINDLAY, Ohio (Dec. 16, 2011)—The descendants of the founders of Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. have made it known to the tire maker they are “deeply disturbed” by the company's actions in locking out unionized workers at its Findlay plant Nov. 28 and replacing them with temporary workers.
Lingel Winters and Janet Clinger, whose grandfather Claude Hart and great-uncle John Schaefer founded Cooper in 1915 when they merged their small tire manufacturing company with I.J. Cooper Rubber Co., criticized the company's decision in a Dec. 9 letter addressed to Roy Armes, Cooper president and CEO. United Steelworkers Local 207L posted the letter in its entirety online.
“Claude Hart adhered to the highest standards for himself and the company,” the letter reads. “He believed that the company had a responsibility for the well-being of not only the shareholders, but the workers and the community.”
In the letter, Winters and Clinger noted that the 606-305 margin by which Cooper's proposed contract was rejected indicated “deep and widespread dissatisfaction, which should concern all of us.”
“Instead, Cooper Tire has retaliated by locking out the employees and hiring scab workers just before Christmas,” they said. “These are not the standards of your founder, Claude Hart. He, like us, would be deeply offended by this callous action.
“Locking out employees who helped the company during hard times and hiring scab workers to replace them subverts the purpose of collective bargaining, is contrary to good faith practices and is un-American at the core. It may also be an illegal labor practice.”
The pair urged Cooper to return to the bargaining table and engage in good faith negotiations with the union. Clinger also is a shareholder in the company.
A spokeswoman for Cooper said no progress was made at the bargaining table with union negotiators Dec. 13. She added that if the union had accepted the tire maker's offer to extend the recently expired contract by a year, the lockout would have been unnecessary.
“The employees are not working today because their negotiating team did not allow them the opportunity to do so while we continued to hammer out an agreement,” she said.