PACE International Union Calls for Bridgestone Firestone Steeltex Tires To Be Recalled

The following statement is from the Paper, Allied-Industrial, Chemical & Energy Workers Intl. Union:

NASHVILLE, Tenn., Feb. 27 -- The 300,000 member Paper, Allied-Industrial, Chemical and Energy Workers International Union is supporting a law firm's efforts to have Bridgestone/Firestone Steeltex tires recalled by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Lisoni and Lisoni, a Pasadena, Calif., law firm that is heading this effort, has questioned the components used to manufacture the tires. Carbon black, one of the components, is a bonding material, and defective carbon black can cause tread separation.

Goodyear filed suit against Continental Carbon, one of Bridgestone/Firestone's chief suppliers, in May 2003 for the alleged delivery of defective carbon black. Goodyear discovered the alleged defective carbon black through its own independent testing, and severed its business relationship with Continental Carbon. Not all of Continental Carbon's customers conduct separate testing, and many rely on Continental Carbon to provide carbon black that meets customers' specifications.

PACE believes that both Bridgestone/Firestone and Cooper Tire received shipments of defective carbon black from Continental Carbon, but have continued their business relationship. According to PACE, this may be putting their customers and shareholders at risk.

PACE represents workers in Ponca City, Okla., who have been locked-out for nearly three years by Taiwanese-owned Continental Carbon Company, one of Bridgestone/Firestone's main carbon black suppliers. The union has charged that Continental Carbon replaced experienced workers with a cut-rate work force, resulting in high turnover at the Ponca City plant, the company's largest manufacturing facility.

Recently, a Cooper Tire representative, when questioned by PACE, stated that Continental Carbon had addressed its quality issues when it terminated two disgruntled temporary employees responsible for the production and shipment of defective carbon black. However, PACE believes that turnover and production problems at the Ponca City plant may still plague the company.

In a news release issued on January 29, Lisoni stated, "The number of people being injured or suffering property damage is growing daily as we receive new reports of alleged defective tires from consumers. As there are still nearly 30 million Steeltex tires out there on the road, it is imperative they be recalled."

CBS Evening News has been conducting its own investigation of Steeltex tires, and its most recent investigatory report appeared on its February 6 national broadcast.

"Many Steeltex tires are on emergency vehicles such as ambulances, and it is disturbing that persons already in peril may suffer a double jeopardy on their way to the hospital," said Dr. Joseph Drexler, PACE director of special projects. "It's time that NHTSA stops listening to Bridgestone/Firestone and does its job to protect the public by taking Steeltex tires off the road."

PACE sent notices last week to 40,000 tire dealers about the Steeltex tire and potential tire defects that could result from use of substandard carbon black. A recent article in The Advocate, a California legal journal, suggested that tire dealers had a duty to warn customers of potential unsafe tires or could be held liable for damages resulting from accidents.

According to PACE, yesterday's voluntary recall by Bridgestone/Firestone of 490,000 Canadian-manufactured Steeltex tires linked to SUV crashes that killed five people should prompt further investigation by NHTSA of U.S. manufactured Steeltex tires which have been linked to scores of other deaths and injuries.

PACE represents 300,000 workers in the paper, oil, chemical, automotive parts, industrial minerals, atomic energy and cement industries. More information on Steeltex tires and carbon black can be found at www.firestonesteeltexclassaction.com and www.fightbackonline.org

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