On 25 March 2021, more than 50 union activists from 16 countries attended a network meeting. Because of the announcement of the acquisition of Cooper Tire, representatives from that company attended as well. The acquisition of Cooper is expected to be completed in the third quarter of 2021, following the agreement of Cooper shareholders and the regulatory authorities.
The meeting was opened and chaired by Kevin Johnsen of the United Steelworkers, who celebrated the longstanding network, and stressed that the pandemic had shown how crucial unions are. Covid-19 has run rampant through non-union plants like Kumho Tire in Macon, Georgia, while workers at Goodyear’s unionized facilities have been protected.
IndustriALL Global Union assistant general secretary Kemal Özkan said: “The long history of cooperation at Goodyear has served as a model for global unionism by bringing together the shopfloor representatives of a major multinational. This cooperation continues to deliver for our members as the industry goes through a new set of challenges.”
Özkan spoke about changes to production due to new technology, and changing mobility patterns that are affecting the auto sector and the industries that supply it. Tyre manufacturers are changing their portfolios and developing new products in cooperation with auto companies.
IndustriALL sector director Tom Grinter gave an overview of the company and the global tyre sector. Grinter spoke about industrial relations flashpoints in Indonesia and Mexico, and about the importance of the network in providing solidarity. He highlighted the case of the 44 union members in Indonesia who had been fired without cause in June 2020. They had been able to maintain their struggle for justice due to generous donations from the Thai unions.
In a number of countries, factories are running at full capacity with model Covid-19 adaptations and union representatives spoke about good plant-level industrial relations. According to reports, workers are tested regularly, and those who cannot work due to health concerns have been deployed or given leave on full pay.
Alaadin Sari, president of Turkish affiliate Lastik-İş, thanked the network for support which helped the union win a new contract with the company in 2020 covering all 2,100 workers at both plants.
Worker representatives of Cooper Tire and Goodyear in several countries expressed their concerns about the possible effects of the merger on their jobs and sites staying open.
The global network’s message to Goodyear management will be to reject any effort to play workers off against each other, to provide security for jobs, earnings and benefits with protections and to demand a long-term commitment to the existing sites.