Steelworkers launch campaign for Goodyear strikers

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The United Steelworkers union has announced a massive solidarity campaign to support the 15,000 striking Goodyear workers and their families. The campaign begins with a National Day of Action Dec. 16, with 100 demonstrations in 100 cities at Goodyear facilities across the nation.

“Goodyear picked the wrong fight with the wrong union at the wrong time and we’re going to kick their ass!” Steelworkers President Leo Gerard told a cheering crowd at the AFL-CIO organizing summit Dec. 9.

After 10 weeks on the picket line, the union is pushing forward, not backing up. Gerard’s statement indicated the union is gearing up for the long haul. The strike is costing the company $50 million a week, according to Gerard. “Goodyear went to Wall Street and got $1 billion in financing to help them bust the union,” he recounted.

At the same time, the strike is costing the 850,000-member union $2 million a week. “There’ll come a time this spring when we’ll call a special convention of the USW and ask our members for $5 a week for a special fund which will allow us to double what we’re putting into our strike fund,” Gerard predicted. “Then it will be a bad year for Goodyear.”

Larry Cohen, head of the 700,000-member Communication Workers Union and a founder of Jobs with Justice, described the Dec. 16 action at Goodyear outlets: “We’re going to turn out at those stores Saturday morning. If anyone gets in, it’ll be us and we’ll have a lot of questions about the tires. After we’ve gotten answers to all those questions, we’ll have one more: ‘I heard there’s a strike going on — I don’t want those tires.’ And then the next one of us will step up.”

The union charges that Goodyear is attempting to wash its hands of its health care obligation to current and future retirees, many of whom face medical conditions directly related to their jobs. “That just plain ain’t gonna happen,” said Gerard.

The solidarity campaign is picking up steam as the holiday season is upon us. The USW has held a series of solidarity rallies, and just announced a strike bonus to go to all strikers for the holidays.

Tim Waters, who heads the union’s Rapid Response team, said that the team’s mobilizing network will be getting into the Goodyear fight. The union will also demand that every politician take a position to support Goodyear retirees.

Goodyear posted its highest profits in seven years and gave top executives large bonuses last year, but this year announced the closing of its Tyler, Texas, plant. Workers from 15 facilities across the U.S. and Canada walked off the job Oct. 5 to protest the company’s unjust contract proposals, the union said.

Striker morale is solid, said strike leader David Prentice. “It’s we, the workers, that made this company,” he said. “We are not about to sacrifice our retirees on the altar of corporate greed. We’ll be there one day longer than Goodyear!”

John Edwards, former senator and vice presidential candidate, addressed an Akron, Ohio, solidarity rally just before the November elections. “My mother and father and brother and sister all have health care because of the union,” Edwards told the crowd. “And I was able to go to school because of the union.” Edwards added that it was the workers who made Goodyear what it is. “Now it’s time for Goodyear to do the right thing, and we’re here to make sure they do!”

The USW is encouraging unionists, friends and social justice activists to join the solidarity campaign. For more information, call the union’s toll free hotline at (877) 511-8792 or e-mail solidarity@usw.org.

bruce161 @ centurytel.net