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Friday, December 8th, 2006

Union member says time to go back to work

By Janie Southard
ST. MARYS - Striking Steelworkers need to go back to work and let the powers that be negotiate on a day-to-day basis as they were doing before the Oct. 5 strike, says Mike Harvey, a USW man with more than 29 years at Goodyear.
"A strike may serve a certain time frame, say 60 to 90 days; but after that, it's just an economic disaster for the union members," Harvey said from his St. Marys home Thursday afternoon.
Jan. 3 will mark the 90th day of the Steelworkers' strike against Goodyear Tire and Rubber. It also marks the beginning of union members paying their own benefits, which Harvey figures will be about $360 for single coverage and $980 for families per month.
This isn't the only thing that's changing as time goes by, especially for those out on the picket line.
Harvey, who serves a four-hour shift on the strike line every week, says:
"At the beginning, this whole thing was kind of fun, a great break from the usual job. We'd laugh and joke out on the line. Nobody was very worried. Cars would honk and show their support.
"But it's getting colder out there in more ways than one. We're huddled around a fire barrel or in the doghouse out by the road. Guards watch us all the time and video tape what we're doing.
"Cars hardly honk much now because we've just become part of the scenery. And, the union folks don't have much desire to be on the line anymore."
His solution:
"The International union should work out an agreement to put us back to work. Then they should sit down at the bargaining table on a day-to-day basis and work out their differences."
Harvey classifies himself as an "old-time union man who supports solidarity." But times are changing.
A baby boomer and Indiana native, Harvey moved to St. Marys 32 years ago. During the past three decades at Goodyear he's seen a shift in attitude toward organized labor.
"The younger generations don't really care about unions one way or another, and there's sure not much love lost in this present situation," he says. "As to money lost, you need to have about six months' wages saved, which is tough when you're young. But it's really important especially when you consider the International (USW) guys who were here this week, said this strike could go two years."
As of this morning, the third striker had gone back to work, according to another Goodyear employee.
Asked if he would consider crossing the line, Harvey says he'd think "long and hard about that."
"As I said I'm a loyal union man. But in the long run family has to come first. I wouldn't cross unless I was desperate and destitute. But then I would cross, with heavy heart," he says.
Harvey stresses that he feels it's in the best interest of everyone to remain on the job.
"Goodyear keeps its experienced workforce, which keeps the customer happy, and the company in business, and we can support our families," he says. "We don't want to be another Huffy plant."
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