- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 24, 2006

TYLER, Texas (AP) — Union workers at the city’s unprofitable Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. plant reacted with hope and some heartache to a tentative deal that would end an 11-week strike but doesn’t guarantee their factory’s future beyond 2007.

The world’s third-largest tiremaker and the United Steelworkers (USW) union reached the deal Friday after both sides resumed talks early last week. About 12,600 union workers nationwide must put the contract to a vote at ratification meetings expected to be held Thursday.

The deal allows Goodyear to stick with plans to close the 44-year-old Tyler plant — which employs about 1,100 people — but not immediately. It provides for a one-year transition period during which workers will have the opportunity to take advantage of retirement buyouts.

“It’s not as good as we’d liked to have done, and it’s better than [Goodyear] wanted to do,” said Jim Wansley, president of the USW Local 746L in Tyler.

Goodyear on Oct. 30 announced it was planning to shut down its Tyler plant that makes wholesale private label tires. The plant’s fate had been a key issue in negotiations, as well as health care benefits.

But the union said the future of the plant, which workers continued to picket outside Saturday, could not be won beyond the end of next year.

Although union workers in Tyler said the announcement wasn’t a complete victory, they were thankful negotiations were progressing.

“With the fight that [the union has] been doing, this is the best Christmas present they could give us,” said Carl Wolford, who has been with Goodyear for 14 years.

Michael Powell, who has been with Goodyear for seven years, said ratification is what most of the workers nationwide want.

“You know, everyone wants this to come to an end,” he said. “We were here to take a stand.”

The factory in Tyler, a city of about 101,000, and Goodyear factories in 15 other cities in the United States and Canada went on strike Oct. 5.

The massive Tyler plant boasts benchmark efficiency but produces mostly poor-selling tires for passenger cars instead of the larger and more profitable models for sport utility vehicles and pickup trucks.

City officials, fearful of losing one of Tyler’s largest employers, had presented Goodyear $12 million in incentives.

Tom Mullins, president and chief executive officer of the Tyler Economic Development Council, said the tentative deal was reason for encouragement.

“I think this is a hopeful sign. We didn’t think the plant would stay open at all, and to get another year could open the door to some opportunities that we’re not aware of at this time.”

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