The clock is ticking, inching closer to midnight as bargaining continues in earnest to avert a work stoppage at Bridgestone – a strike union officials say could come as soon as next Sunday.
The deadline to reach a new labor agreement between Bridgestone and six of its plants, one of which is the plant in Morrison, is July 27. Failure to bridge the gap between labor and management could lead to a strike that will include the Morrison plant’s 750 members.
“It’s all been concessionary across the board,” said Van Tenpenny of the Local United Steel Workers 1155, noting the company wants the workforce to take concessions just as employees did in 2009. “Back then the economy was bad, but it’s recovering. It’s a different situation today.”
Tenpenny said Bridgestone made a $2.5 billion net profit in 2012 and looks to be following its robust growth this year. The brisk business, Tenpenny noted, has workers wondering why they would be asked to take more cuts.
“The membership has had enough,” Tenpenny said, adding the rank and file is ready to strike if an equitable agreement is not made. “It’s little things like bereavement pay for our newer employees and the lack of vacation time for the new employees for up to a year and a half.”
Part of the concessions from 2009 allowed Bridgestone to hire up to 10 percent of new employees with lesser pay and benefits than older employees.
“This affects over 200 people’s lives,” Tenpenny said.
While the possibility of a strike looms, Tenpenny said there are still vigorous negotiations going on in Louisville between management and labor. The talks have been ongoing since July 4.
“It’s a good sign they are sitting down and talking,” Tenpenny said. “Hopefully they will be able to reach a fair and equitable agreement.”
Any proposal would have to be ratified by the rank and file of the union by a majority vote before the contact would become active.
While less than a week remains until the deadline, contract talks have held high drama over the years, some agreements not reached until literally the last hour before midnight.
Bridgestone is withholding comment on specifics while negotiations are ongoing, saying only they face challenges from “the ever-increasing global competition” in their field.