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News from USWA: Steelworkers at Bridgestone-Firestone Begin to Prepare for Possible Strike

PITTSBURGH--March 8, 2005--The United Steelworkers of America (USWA) will begin conducting strike preparation sessions today in Des Moines, Iowa (Local 310); LaVergne, Tennessee (Local 1055) and Russellville, Arkansas (Local 884). Five other locals involved in master contract negotiations with Bridgestone/Firestone (BFS) -- Local 7, Akron, Ohio; Local 138, Noblesville, Indiana, Local 787, Bloomington, Illinois, Local 998, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; and Local 1155, Warren County, Tennessee will hold training sessions within the next two weeks.

"In negotiations, the company still resists our demands that it grow and invest in our plants in order to secure the future of our plants and increase their share of new and higher margin products," said USWA executive vice president John Sellers. "There's no way that our members will accept a contract that allows BFS to export our jobs and replace our production with imports and goods produced at non-union plants."

Unlike other major tire producers such as Goodyear and Michelin's BFGoodrich that have made long-term commitments to U.S. manufacturing, BFS has not committed to make investments in Steelworker-represented facilities. By starving these plants of capital, BFS threatens the job security of active members and jeopardizes the communities where these facilities currently operate. Retirees, from whom BFS is seeking to extract concessions in this round of negotiations, would also be severely affected by any plant closings.

"It appears that BFS is looking to gain an unfair competitive advantage in the North American market," said Sellers. "The Goodyear and BFGoodrich master agreement promise our members no plant closures and guaranteed employment levels."

Like many industries, tire and rubber producers engage in pattern bargaining. Pattern bargaining agreements maintain generally uniform collective agreements with groups of employers within an industry and compel employers to compete on the basis of product and service quality, innovation, up-to-date technology and management.

USWA-represented employees at BFS have been working under a day-to-day extension agreement since the original April 23, 2003 contract expiration date. Either side can terminate the extension by issuing a five-day notice.

Its hourly workforce struck Bridgestone/Firestone in 1994, when the United Rubber Workers (URW) represented it. That strike was settled in 1996, following the URW-USWA merger in 1995.

Current negotiations involve 6,000 workers at eight BFS plants in the U.S. The USWA represents more than 70,000 workers in the rubber and plastics industry in the U.S. and Canada.