The First Day Of The Strike
Goodyear workers who are members of the United Steelworkers Association in Union City left the plant right at noon (CST) on Thursday. Retirees stood at the end of the road that leads to the gate with picket signs in hand. Camera crews and other newspapers interviewed members of the USW Local 878L.
I can't help but wonder where they will be in a month. Will they (or should I say we) be there when its colder outside? When the rains come, or even the snow? The day was gray as I watched hundreds of cars, motorcycles and trucks leave the gated plant. Adrenaline ran through everyone's veins. I went to the Goodyear gate with Rodent Queen who was assigned to be photographer, but they told us we had to get off their property.
So we lined the bypass and the small service roads around this massive plant. There was one lady, roughly in her early 70's, crying. We were worried that she was going to get hit by a car as she practically just stopped in the middle of the road. Her husband had died of a heart attack while on the line at Goodyear. Both of her children are employeed there now. Goodyear has been her life for 40 years.
Trailors carring huge toolboxes lumbered out first. Then the doors opened, and from the distance, we could see what looked like the worker ants leaving the nest.
It took me a minute. I had to have confirmation from at least one worker they were on strike, then it was my job to call my publisher who owns the daily paper that owns us.
We held the paper until one man drove by, saying "Strike."
The Union says they want retiree health care benefits retained, which Goodyear wants to eliminate. They say they want to reduce their wages by 40 percent.
Two retirees spoke to me. Don Jones had a heart transplant roughly fifteen years ago. Without health care, his survival is compromised. Another retiree, Don Jock, who I've known for about fifteen years, just had his fifth heart by-pass. He said "This is worse than my five by-passes. I feel terrible. This isn't good."
John Farmer showed up as well, driving in from Memphis. He stood to the side, watching what was happening. At that moment, I wasn't a democrat and he wasn't a republican. We were both people watching what could devastate this community.
Jones, who is documenting his own story over at www.secondchance.blogspot.com, said it best. "It's not about Goodyear. It's not about the Union. It's about breaking the American Spirit. We don't want to strike, but we have to. We don't have a choice."
You must remember the retirees' frustration. They are tied into a contract they have no voice in.
You see, they can't vote. They were told they would be taken care of for their loyalty. Now they are told they won't be. Their "brothers and sisters in the union" as one retiree named J.D. Evans called them, are walking the picket line for them as well.
They have no voice and things look bleak.
Goodyear is fighting back without saying a word. Workers from temp agencies have been hired to replace the striking union. Goodyear says they have a contigency plan. Goodyear CEO Robert Keene has received big bonuses, said one of the strikers named Mickey Hicks.
"The salaried people want us to give up part of our wages and the retiree health care," he said. "What are they going to give up." If you want to read both Goodyear's (www.goodyear.com) or the union's stand (www.gkdsolidarityexpress.com) you can head over there to make your own mind up.
Yeah. I'm a reporter and I contributed to the story. The Associated Press got their picture, but there is no way to describe the actual despair we saw yesterday.