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Published: Friday, 1/20/2012 - Updated: 2 years ago

Cooper Tire reaches Ark. pact

Vote set Thursday; workers in Ohio remain locked out

BY TYREL LINKHORN
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

A late-night bargaining session at Cooper Tire & Rubber Co.’s Arkansas tire factory appears to have produced an agreement on a new, four-year contract with workers there.

Meanwhile, Cooper’s Findlay employees remain out in the cold.

David Beard, a spokesman for United Steel Workers Local 752L in Texarkana, Ark., said the union and management reached a tentative agreement late Thursday, the day the previous contract expired. The proposal is to be voted on Thursday by the plant’s 1,500 hourly workers.

“I think for what it’s worth, it’s not a bad contract,” Mr. Beard said in a phone interview Friday. He declined to give specifics.

Cooper Tire officials did not respond to requests for comment.

Its 1,050 hourly employees in Findlay have been locked out since Nov. 28 after the membership rejected what the company called its last-best offer. At the time, Cooper officials said bringing in temporary workers was necessary to ensure against simultaneous work stoppages at both of the company’s unionized U.S. tire plants. The company also operates a nonunion tire factory in Tupelo, Miss.

What effect a Texarkana contract would have for Findlay’s workers was unclear.

Rod Nelson, president of the United Steel Workers Local 207 in Findlay, couldn’t be reached for comment Friday after news of the tentative agreement in Texarkana.

Joseph Slater, a law professor who specializes in labor law at the University of Toledo, said a contract in Texarkana has the potential for two opposite effects.

The two sides haven’t held official talks in Findlay since mid-December. Mr. Nelson said Thursday the union was waiting for management to ask them back to the table.

“The company is sticking by their last, best, and final offer. We’re saying the membership rejected that and we’d like to still continue to negotiate,” Mr. Nelson said.

The Findlay plant, which is next to Cooper’s international headquarters, normally makes about 20,000 tires a day. The company said it expected the temporary work force to be at full-production capacity by the first of the year, but they have not commented further on production.

At least one tire distributor said the dispute in Findlay has affected deliveries. Tom Geiger, Jr., president of Capital Tire in Toledo, said industry-wide supplies are tight but Cooper deliveries have noticeably slowed since the labor issue began.

“In the light truck and SUV marketplace, that’s where they build a lot of tires in Findlay. That’s been hurt,” Mr. Geiger said. “We as a loyal Cooper dealer for 35 years would love to see this dispute come to an end.”

Contact Tyrel Linkhorn at: tlinkhorn@theblade.com or 419-724-6134.



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