|Goodyear workers Jeff Pester (left) and Jerry Novak review their new wage plan at a union hall near in Lincoln, Neb. (Nati Harnik/Associated Press)|
Goodyear strike leaves lingering tensions
Workers return to their jobs today
AKRON, Ohio -- The contract has been approved, the picket lines and fire barrels taken down, but some hard feelings remain among Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. workers who will return to work today after a three-month strike that at times got ugly.
"Personally, I feel there's going to be a hard line drawn between management and associates," said Dan Levin, 43, who has worked at the Sun Prairie, Wis., plant for 12 years. "Talk to me about my line. Talk to me about my work. Small talk? Forget about it. There's going to be a division, like the China wall."
Workers at 12 plants in 10 states ended their strike Friday by approving a three-year agreement covering 14,000 employees that includes plans to close a Texas tire factory and creates a $1 billion health care fund for retirees. The contract was approved by all 12 locals and by the overall membership by two to one.
Before the strike, relations between workers and management at the plant were good, Levin said. It will take a while to mend the wounds, he said.
The company said the pact will help reduce its costs by $610 million over three years and $300 million a year thereafter.
Most workers are expected to be back on the job today.
Some members of the United Steelworkers were optimistic about rebuilding their relationship with management.
"Overall when we get back in there, they're going to be happy for us to get in there," said John Rutherford, president of USW Local 843L in Marysville, Ohio. "I don't think they're going to be overbearing and slapping us back into shape. We're looking forward to getting back into the routine."
Rutherford held resentment only for temporary workers who filled their jobs for weeks, saying there would be no tension, "as long as the scabs are out well before we get back in there."
Goodyear ultimately agreed to put $1 billion into a health care fund for retired union workers' medical benefits, higher than the company's previous $660 million offer but less than the union's call for roughly double that amount.
Other workers still had raw emotions, like those in Sun Prairie who tell stories of some managers smiling and waving their paychecks at workers on the picket lines. It will take a while to forget about that, said Jodi Dushack, 41, a 12-year worker.
"Some of the management was OK to us, but some rubbed it in our faces," she said. "It's going to be hard because a lot of them you thought were your friends turned out to be, what word should I use, vulgar."
Dave Prentice, a worker on temporary assignment with USW Local 2L in Akron, anticipated a long healing process.
"There were a lot of wounds inflicted and people are going to have to heal and get back into the business of producing a quality product," he said.