20 March, 2013The United Steelworkers of North America has been conducting robust bargaining for fair contracts at two multinational tire manufacturers. USW members ratified new contracts this week at three Titan International plants, while Steelworkers at Firestone Polymers LLC in Orange, Texas went on strike on 18 March to defend existing health care benefits.
The unity of USW Local 164 in Des Moines, Iowa; USW Local 745 in Freeport, Ill.; and USW Local 890 in Bryan, Ohio members at Titan plants held firm through difficult negotiations. Talks ended with worker ratification of four-year agreements, each including wage and benefit improvements and improved language on contract labour, notably around the issue of forced overtime.
USW District 7 Director Jim Robinson who chairs the USW negotiations with Titan stated:
We were able to address important issues at all three locations and satisfied a majority of the men and women whose unity and solidarity never wavered throughout the process.
However elsewhere in the industry in the US, USW Local 13-836 went on strike at noon on 18 March at Firestone Polymers LLC in Orange, Texas, as management intransigence on issues of salary and health care benefits stopped the bargaining process. The plant manufactures polymers for use in the production of a number of rubber and plastic products.
Bargaining between Local 13-836 and Firestone management had reached solution on many issues, but the company’s efforts to shift health care costs onto the workers ultimately forced workers out on strike.
Management has also pushed for the union to give up its right to bargain over changes in the health care plans.
Local 13-836 members are concerned about their health care costs because they are exposed to highly hazardous chemicals and work in a dangerous environment. They are more likely to need medical care because of their workplace exposure.
Richard “Hoot” Landry, USW staff representative said:
The union is prepared to return to the table at the earliest opportunity so the parties can address the open issues. Until then, we will remain united in our quest for a fair contract.