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The Daily



07-21-03: Union rallies for members
The Daily Standard

    ST. MARYS - About 350 former and current members of The United Steelworkers Local 200 in St. Marys turned out to support retirees and current Goodyear workers Sunday in their contract fight with the company.
    Steelworkers held rallies across the nation Sunday as they tried to pick up community support for their current contract negotiations efforts. The contract between the union and the company's North American Tire operations expired April 19 but the two sides agreed to extend the contract through June 27.
    The union rejected the company's latest proposal 20 minutes before last month's deadline and negotiations ceased. Workers are still laboring under the terms of the previous contract.
    Local 200 President Gary Glass told the group in St. Marys that slashed health care benefits and unsecure job protection were the main reasons for rejecting the offer.
    "Basically, they want you to do without medical care and want to make you pay for it," Glass said.
    While the general reasons for rejecting the contract have been no secret, Glass for the first time talked about specific issues. Glass said the company wants to raise drug card co-payments from the current cost of $2 to $10 for generic drugs, $20 for non-generic and even up to $40 for other specific medication. The company is also asking that workers pay $800 annually for family health insurance coverage and $400 for single person coverage. Glass said A person who retired in 1985 could not pay that with one month's retiree benefits, Glass said.
    "Sometimes, when we get into these struggles, we forget what they are all about," said Dave McCall, United Steelworkers District 4 president. "This is about our children and our future."
    McCall said that Goodyear is taking advantage of weak American trade policies as a way to make more money.
    "We have open borders and a company can transfer operations to any other country," McCall said. "We have basic human rights and environmental standards here they don't have anywhere else. They want to take these jobs somewhere else and pay somebody wages (so low) they can't afford to buy the products they are making. The workers in Mexico or China can't afford to buy these things."
    McCall said companies are then importing their products back to America, where they are expected to sell.
    "Sooner or later there is going to be a collapse in our economy," McCall said. "No one here will be able to afford them either."
    McCall said the United States government needs to restructure its policy to keep American jobs in America.
    Glass added that Goodyear could trim $2 billion of its $10 billion debt by forcing bondholders to sell $2 billion in bonds at lower prices. He said the company is also overmanaged and could trim much of the debt by eliminating unneeded management positions.
    Workers are willing to do their share of trimming the company debt, Glass said.
    "The workers could make the company as profitable as they want it to be," Glass said. "They just need to work with us."
    Union officials have said that the company has turned a deaf ear to the union's suggestions about operating the plants more efficiently and keeping them open. Glass said that the company will not discuss selling off the bonds at cheaper prices, stating that "they rather screw the retirees rather than the bondholders."
    Company officials have said there are 1.2 retirees for every current plant worker and that shows a need to reduce costs. Glass dispelled that claim.
    "That is far less than most companies," Glass said. "That total is not out of the ordinary."
    Ohio 78th District state Rep. Derrick Seaver, D-Minster, also offered support, agreeing the government needed to do more to "protect retirees and American jobs." He said Ohio also needed to do more to commit to industry.
    "Ohio jobs are going to other states because those states have commitments," Seaver said.
    The company has tentatively agreed to return to the bargaining table, Glass said, saying he will go back to Cincinnati July 27 to resume talks the next day.
    "Goodyear needs to be honest and upfront with us and guarantee us that we have a future," Glass said.
    The negotiations cover contracts for more than 19,000 active workers and 22,000 retirees employed at Goodyear, Kelly-Springfield and Dunlop plants across the United States. Bargaining began March 12.
    Union officials said they were disappointed local governments would not show support, saying St. Marys Mayor Greg Freewalt and other officials were invited but would not attend.


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