From the TUC

US bosses buy new jet but lockout workers who want concessions back

28 Dec 2011, By

It’s now a month since US firm Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. locked out 1,050 members of USW Local 207L in Findlay, Ohio on 28 November. These men and women offered to stay on the job as contract negotiations moved forward, but the company refused. The company pleads poverty, but their workers say it is corporate greed – not need – that is driving the company’s campaign. Unite, who represent workers at the Cooper Tire facility in the UK, and are working with the USW and other unions around the world in Workers Uniting, have taken out adverts in local Ohio newspapers to argue the workers’ case – as reported on Unite Assistant General Secretary Tony Burke’s Power in a Union blog. Sign their petition demanding fair treatment.

These are certainly not ‘greedy workers’. In 2008, when Cooper Tire was losing money, workers gave up $31 million in pay and benefits concessions to help their employer stay alive. But now that the company is raking in hundreds of millions of dollars in profit (over $300m since 2009 – they even bought a new corporate jet!) – and handing corporate executives millions of dollars in raises and bonuses – workers want some of their old terms and conditions back, as company employee Joe Shaheen wrote to the local paper.

The company is trying to make its tyres with a crew of out-of-state, inexperienced temporary replacement workers, and they have recently bought a factory in Serbia where they may be hoping to shift some production (but the local union there has itself demanded that management end the lockout and negotiate a fair contract). The newly profitable company has no doubt been helped by the restrictions placed by the US government, after union lobbying, on under-priced Chinese tyres: and this is the gratitude shown by the company!

Tony Burke said:

“Manufacturing is now globalised and what happens in one country can happen in another. That’s why Unite and our members at Cooper Tire are standing up for our US brothers and sisters. Cooper Tire is a global corporation and the workers helped it out when it was in trouble by accepting pay freezes for many years. Now the company repays them by locking out its 1,000 strong workforce. We can’t stand idly by and watch this happen.”