By Thursday afternoon, 12,000 Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. employees in 10 states - including Tennessee - may be locked out of their jobs or could go on strike if the company and its unionized workers don't agree on a new contract.
The Goodyear plant in Union City, which employs about 2,400, is a union plant, said Ed Markey, a Goodyear spokesman. It is one of eight tire plants in the United States governed by the United Steelworkers union.
The union has threatened to strike Goodyear beginning at 1 p.m. today, Markey said. Talks were under way in Cincinnati between the Akron-based tire maker and the United Steelworkers union.While Markey said he could not comment on the negotiations, he stressed the tire maker had contingency plans to continue delivering tires to the marketplace in the event of a strike.
The company, with 2005 sales of $19.5 billion and more than 100 plants in 29 countries, said the talks would affect 12,600 workers at 12 U.S. plants. The union put the head count at 14,000.
The union, which said it was determined to avoid plant shutdowns, said it would terminate a day-to-day contract with Goodyear at midday today if an agreement wasn't reached. The old three-year contract expired July 22.
"We're preparing for a number of scenarios, and a strike is one of them," said Wayne Ranick, a spokesman for the Steelworkers.
The company said earlier that other options without a contract or extension of the old contract were a lockout or continuing work without a contract. Goodyear said it had contingency plans to keep its plants operating.
The key sticking point apparently was the company's desire to close plants in Tyler, Texas, and Gadsden, Ala., union representatives in both cities said.
"If I had to describe things in one word, it would be intense, but if I had to describe it in two words, it would be very intense," said Harold Sweat, a union official in Tyler. "We are ready for something to happen."
Bren Riley, vice president of Steelworkers Local 12 in Gadsden, said Gadsden and Tyler were left off the protected list in the company's latest proposal.
Willis Hicks, spokesman for Steelworkers Local 878L at the Union City plant, said workers would strike and pickets would go up if an agreement wasn't reached by the deadline.
"We want to receive a fair and equitable contract," Hicks said. "Right now, they haven't made enough movement in the right direction. We would not wish to strike, but we might have to."
I have a camera. Will travel.
This is bad.