Pentagon threatens as
75,000 join Goodyear pickets
Published Dec 21, 2006 1:19 AM
For one day, the 15,000 workers striking Goodyear in the U.S. and Canada had
their strength multiplied by five. On Dec. 16, a National Day of Solidarity
drew 75,000 strikers and supporters to 150 pickets of Goodyear dealerships in
over 100 cities.
Nearly every state and Canadian province had one or more actions, which were
called jointly by the United Steelworkers (USW) and the AFL-CIO. Even where the
nearest picket was outside a 500-mile radius, unionists felt the importance of
showing solidarity. “Wherever union workers are on strike, we try to
support them,” explained Archie Archuleta, a retired teacher and unionist
picketing in Salt Lake City.
The Great Lakes states had the most demonstrations. The Cleveland area had two
separate actions. In Cleveland and Akron, a big morale boost came when USW
International President Leo Gerard paid a visit to and spoke with the
Goodyear still has its world headquarters in Akron, Ohio. Some 150 strikers and
their allies chanted and held signs outside. But even without them, few would
be buying Goodyear tires in this union-conscious town.
Despite Goodyear’s near-annihilation of the unionized
workforce—less than 500 are striking the company, which once supported
12,000 workers and their families—feelings of solidarity run deep. The
Goodyear dealer at Chapel Hill mall had few customers and had to listen to
horns honking for two solid hours.
For most dealers, however, lack of customers is the least of their problems.
According to a recent article in Modern Tire Dealer, getting tires from
strikebound plants is tough. Dealers must “say some prayers and pull some
teeth” if they want products delivered. Goodyear has already burned up
$350 million of the $1 billion it borrowed in October to break the strike.
Still further proof that the strike, now two and a half months old, is having
an impact on production came Dec. 14, when the chair of the House Armed
Services Committee threatened to invoke the Taft-Hartley law to force 200
strikers in Topeka, Kansas, back to work. Rep. Duncan Hunter of California
cited a 35 percent drop in the supply of tires for military Humvees. Seeking to
allay fears on Wall Street, Goodyear representatives are repeating the
now-tired refrain that no shortage exists.
In a desperate attempt to boost stock prices, JP Morgan Securities recently
joined Goodyear in generating false stories that strikers will lose health care
coverage on Jan. 3. Ignoring the proud history of struggle of the United Rubber
Workers (merged with the United Steelworkers since 1995), spokesperson Himanshu
Patel claimed this loss “could spur increased pressure from union members
to reach an agreement.” Seeking to refute the truth that workers have
power, he argued that the union had only one weapon, the strike, and it had
already used that weapon, so the union was in effect already beaten.
In fact, it is Goodyear that asked the Steelworkers union to come back to the
table. Bargaining resumed two days after the powerful day of solidarity.
Prior to Dec. 16, burgeoning local, national and international solidarity took
on a multitude of forms. In Gadsden, Ala., an elderly widow of a Goodyear
retiree gave out $50 bills to everyone on the picket line there. In Danville,
Va., the Danville Ministerial Alliance—comprised of 40 Black and white
churches—placed a full-page ad in the local paper supporting the
In Eastern Europe, the union at Goodyear-owned Sava Tires in Slovenia pledged
its support, stressing the need to “coordinate our struggle with this
Indeed, the 65,000 Goodyear employees outside the U.S. and Canada are facing
the same or greater challenges as those currently on strike. The threat of
plant closings looms over the heads of workers in Eastern Europe, especially in
Facing corporate demands for concessions, Turkish rubber union Laitik-Is voted
to strike and was subsequently locked out. After two years, though, the workers
won a concession-free contract.
In Bangkok 17 fired unionists are celebrating a recent court ruling upholding
their reinstatement with back pay. Goodyear had defied a previous court order
to reinstate them.
Among strikers’ complaints are company plans to shift production to
China, where the company pays workers 42 to 56 cents per hour. Yet while the
USW leadership is quick to attack the Chinese government, U.S. corporations,
including Goodyear, have locked horns with Beijing over pending labor
legislation cracking down on sweatshop abuse.
According to Global Solidarity, a newsletter for Goodyear workers all over the
world, the tire baron is “lobbying against the legislation and
threatening to build fewer factories” if the new law is enacted. As it
is, Chinese labor laws have prevented Goodyear from forcing its employees to
work over 40 hours.
No to Pentagon union-busting!
The workers are naturally concerned for the safety of U.S. servicepeople in
Iraq and Afghanistan. With the shortage of military-use tires, and the fact
that scab tires are unsafe, the USW local in Topeka, Kansas, has offered to
resume production of these tires if the scabs are removed from the plant.
Desperate to claim a shortage exists, Goodyear has declined the union’s
However, an alternative position to take, and the only one that would truly
guarantee the soldiers’ safety, would be to demand the immediate return
of U.S. troops. The labor movement must strongly denounce the union-busting
Pentagon and its anti-union puppets in Iraq, and prepare to go into battle if
Washington invokes Taft-Hartley to break up the magnificent solidarity of the
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