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Goodyear workers hit the pavement

Goodyear tires on display

BOB MOON: Months of talks between Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company and the United Steelworkers Union weren't go-go-going anywhere today, and about 15,000 workers walked out of 16 North American plants. Janet Babin reports from North Carolina Public Radio:


JANET BABIN: The company and the union have been talking since June. The big sticking point appears to be how much of its business Goodyear can take overseas. The company wants the option to close at least 2 more of its North American plants. It's also asking workers to pay more healthcare costs.

Union Spokesman Wayne Ranick says back in 2003, union members took deep cuts to help the company steady itself as it flirted with bankruptcy:
WAYNE RANICK:"We agreed to a plant closure, we accepted wage cuts, pension freeze, healthcare cuts. We did a number of things to help this company get back on track."

Now that Goodyear's on the rebound, Ranick says it seems that all the other stakeholders are being rewarded, and the union's still being asked to take cuts.

But Goodyear spokesman Ed Markey says the company needs to be able to close unproductive plants:

ED MARKEY:"We have excess capacity and we have a cost structure that is too high. Our deal would be a fair deal that allows us to be competitive in a global environment."

Bob Bussell runs the Labor Education and Research Center at the University of Oregon. He says the pressures of global competition have put industrial workers' backs to the wall:

BOB BUSSELL:"Over the years, the crowning achievements of collective bargaining have been to create a decent middle class standard of living, and there's a point at which workers feel we can go no farther as far as granting concessions."

Some of the Goodyear plants are being manned by salaried workers, as the company tries to minimize the strike's effect on customers.

I'm Janet Babin for Marketplace.

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