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Goodyear local unions ratify USW local agreements

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PITTSBURGH—The United Steelworkers union has ratified local agreements at Goodyear's six plants in Akron; Topeka, Kan.; Gadsden, Ala.; Buffalo, N.Y.; Danville, Va.; and Fayetteville, N.C., a USW spokesman said.

Topeka, Gadsden, Buffalo and Danville ratified their agreements during the week of Oct. 27. Akron and Fayetteville had ratified their agreements before then, he said.

According to the Fayetteville local website, 73.6 percent of voters approved the deal. Tom Conway, USW's international vice president, administration, said each local passed its agreement by, at minimum, a 70-percent margin.

Goodyear declined to comment on the local agreements.

"I didn't think there were a lot of surprises," Conway said. "Some of them went pretty smoothly—Fayetteville and Akron got done early. The others kind of plunked along. They're all complete now. I think all have been ratified by good margins, and we're on our way."

The agreements are a supplement to the national agreement, which was approved earlier this year. The local agreements expire at the same time as the master contract, in July 2017.

The issues covered in the local agreements mainly revolved around scheduling and whether or not contractors could be used on certain operations, Conway said.

"Frankly I'm not sure why some of these things drug out the way they did," Conway said.

"I think in some instances, the company tried to expand it into things they might have tried to get in the master and didn't achieve. I think those things kind of drug it out; beyond that, I didn't see a lot of significant issues."

Negotiations in Topeka were resolved an hour before the deadline that the local union had set to go on strike. According to Conway, the local union was getting restless over wage increases promised to newly hired workers that wouldn't go into effect until the local contract was completed.

The issue causing the Topeka negotiations to drag out, according to local vice president Jody Juarez, was wording about how employees could schedule vacation on weekends.

Juarez said the union was concerned over wording that termed Saturday and Sunday as preferred days. Weekends were termed preferred days when the plant was operating on a conventional work schedule. Since then, it had switched to a six and two-thirds schedule, but the contract still labeled Saturday and Sunday as preferred days. The union wanted that language removed since weekends became part of the regular working schedule.

Conway said Topeka was the only local that came close to a work stoppage.

"The master agreement now covers a lot of issues," Conway said. "When they go have their local talks, while those are certainly important to that location, I don't know that the issues that get there necessarily are of that significance that people can get into the street over them. But it can certainly happen. I don't think people felt like they've given up a lot at local."

Conway said he felt the union came through the locals in pretty good shape without concessions.

"We have a good master agreement; we got a lot done there," Conway said. "We made progress in the locals. Anytime we can do that without a work stoppage or any interruption is good for the unions as well for the company. It's still a tough market."