The United Steelworkers struck over the proposed closing, and the strike dragged on for several weeks before being settled, causing problems throughout the company and their customers, as well. The strike began Oct. 5, and over 12,000 workers were involved in the strike. The strike was anticipated, so many retailers were able to stockpile Goodyear tires in an attempt to alleviate the affects of the strike, but smaller retailers, who could not afford that option, were harder hit, and ran out of tires during the strike. One reporter notes, "The strike has been especially painful to small retailers, who couldn't afford or didn't have the warehouse capacity to order extra tires before the walkout."
Larger companies, such as Ford and Caterpillar, who use Goodyear tires, stockpiled tires as well, but also rely on tires from other manufacturers, so they were not hard hit during the strike.
After three months, the strike was ended, with both sides giving concessions. The Steelworkers lost their bid to keep the Tyler plant open, but did gain health care benefits and assurances from the company. Reporter Steve Lengell continues, "The contract establishes a company-financed trust of more than $1 billion for medical and prescription drug benefits for current and future retirees. Medical and prescription drug coverage for active and retired members also was maintained."
The Tyler plant will stay open through 2007, and jobs were protected at all the other plants Goodyear operates in the U.S., which include, "Danville, Va; Akron, St. Marys and Marysville, Ohio; Gadsden, Ala.; Buffalo, N.Y.; Lincoln, Neb.; Topeka, Kan.; Fayetteville, N.C.; Sun Prairie, Wis.; and Union City, Tenn."
It is interesting to note that while the company began its history in Akron, Ohio, which at one time was "king" of the rubber trade, Goodyear no longer manufactures any tires in Akron; the city only houses the company's corporate headquarters.
Interestingly, one of the consumers of Goodyear tires most affected by the strike was the U.S. military. Goodyear produces tires for the military Humvee vehicle, and a shortage of Humvee tires began to affect the military as the strike wore on. The problem got so bad that one Congressional Representative wrote to the company asking them to reopen the only plant that builds the Humvee tires. Reporter Lengell continues, "Mr. Hunter on Wednesday wrote to Goodyear management and union leaders to ask them to work out a deal allowing 200 striking workers to return to Goodyear's Topeka, Kan., plant - the sole producer of Humvee tires. "The U.S. Army fights on wheels, and they need help from both the union and management right now," Mr. Hunter said."
However, Goodyear refused to reopen the plant, even though the Union endorsed the plan. Goodyear did not acknowledge there was a tire shortage, according to one source.
Of course, this recent strike has not been the only labor problem at Goodyear. Their company history notes that the first nationwide labor problem took place in 1954, when workers walked off the job for 52 days. Throughout their history, the company has faced many labor disputes, both long and short. They have also developed some of the most far-reaching and innovative labor benefits in the industry, from health benefits to work hours and pay rates. However, most of their manufacture is now done overseas and in Mexico and Canada in an effort to save money on labor costs.
In conclusion, the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company has had a remarkable effect on the world's commerce, from developing some of the first automobile tires and tire manufacturing, to developing tires and brake systems for airplanes, developing blimps and dirigibles, and patenting a number of important processes. They have also had a remarkable effect on American labor and on the city of Akron, Ohio. However, the company is most well-known for its tires, from early bicycle tires to modern All-Weather radials, which they helped develop. They have always been innovative, forward-thinking, and geared for expansion and growth, and today, the company is still the world's largest tire company, and no matter what diversifications Goodyear develops in the year's to come, their tires and tire technology have had a profound effect on the automobile, transportation, and heavy equipment industries.