TEXARKANA, Ark.—The United Steelworkers union continues to make progress in labor negotiations with the U.S.' major tire manufacturers.
The union recently ratified two four-year agreements with Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. sites in Clarksdale, Miss., and Texarkana. The agreement with Local 752 in Texarkana covers about 1,440 unionized employees and was ratified on Jan. 30. Local 556 at the Clarksdale site—which makes bladders and does mixing, according to information on Cooper Tire's website—ratified its deal that covers about 40 unionized employees in February.
"I think the union got a fair deal," said Stan Johnson, USW international secretary treasurer. "We continued down the track we've gone in other bargaining with closing the two-tier gap. We've made significant strides down that path in Texarkana with pay increases mostly across the board. We kept the defined benefit pension plan for those that already had it and increased the multiplier."
Clarksdale didn't quite have the same issues, but Johnson said he was pleased with that agreement as well.
"I don't think you ever hit all of your goals," Johnson said. "If you hit all of your goals, you didn't set your goals high enough. But the biggest goal we've had in this round of bargaining in tire has been to close this two-tiered wage system that got put in years ago. We did what we had to do at the time to secure the facilities that we've had, but it became apparent not long after that we had to start closing that gap."
Johnson added that the USW also has made significant strides at Goodyear and Bridgestone/Firestone, those five-year contracts were agreed to in 2017. The union will attempt to do the same when it renegotiates with Michelin/BFGoodrich this summer. The three-year pacts with Local 351 and Local 715 in Tuscaloosa, Ala., and Fort Wayne, Ind. expire in July.
The union also will negotiate a new deal with Cooper Tire's Findlay, Ohio, plant represented by Local 207 early next year. The contract runs through February.
"We've got good relationships within the industry everywhere," Johnson said. "There's a mutual respect and I think we've built a good rapport."