- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 12, 2006

As the United Steelworkers’ strike against Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. enters its sixth week, retailers say supplies of Goodyear tires, which had remained steady for the past month, are beginning to dwindle.

“The full effect of the strike has not been seen yet, but I think in the next month things will really go downhill,” said Chris Picarello, executive director of the New York Tire Dealers Association. “It’s going to get much worse.”

Goodyear and union officials announced Friday that they will have their first negotiating session tomorrow since 12,000 workers in North America went on strike Oct. 5.

The sides will meet as Goodyear moves forward with its plan to shut down its tire plant in Tyler, Texas, eliminating about 1,100 jobs. The Steelworkers are insisting that the Tyler plant remain open.

Because the strike was anticipated, wholesalers had time to stockpile reserves. But those reserves are running out, and some Goodyear models are becoming scarce.

“We still have Goodyears, but already some of the more popular models are getting hard to find,” said Don Paul, manager of Annapolis Tire & Auto.

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.

“It’s hurt us, but the big guys were able to stockpile more,” Ms. Picarello said.

Brooks-Huff Tire & Auto Centers, with locations in Maryland and Pennsylvania, was overstocked with tires when the strike began, and thus hasn’t been affected, said General Manager Doug Meekins.

“Our warehouses were busting at the seams when the strike took over,” he said. “It was just a coincidence — we were trying to meet purchase objectives and stay in good graces with Goodyear.”

But sales have been brisk the past few weeks, and those supplies won’t last long, he said.

“Without a doubt, if this strike goes on another month, it will hurt us,” Mr. Meekins said.

Goodyear customers such the Ford Motor Co. and Caterpillar Inc., which manufactures large earth-moving equipment, said they haven’t had any major disruptions in their supply.

Ford also buys tires from other companies, spokesman Paul Wood said.

Caterpillar has a network of several tire supplies, which has minimized tire shortages, spokesman Rusty Dunn said.

“We’re certainly watching the situation, and we’re proceeding with business as usual,” Mr. Dunn said.

Even if the strike ended immediately, it would take months for supplies return to normal levels, Ms. Picarello said.

“Although, if they ended the strike now, it certainly would makes things a lot easier for us,” she said.

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