Goodyear tires — how safe?

Tire-making is a highly skilled job, but Goodyear is now using “replacement workers” and managers to run its plants. Its 12,000 workers in the U.S. and Canada, members of the USW, walked out in early October. The workers refuse to agree to the closing of two of Goodyear’s 16 plants in the two countries.

The use of replacement workers has been linked with the production of defective tires in the past. A study by Princeton University examined the causes of the recall of 14.4 million Firestone tires in 2000. It concluded that the use of replacement workers in their manufacture and “labor strife” played a role.

The National Highway Safety Transportation Administration linked the recalled tires to a rash of rollover accidents. It reported complaints involving 271 fatalities and more than 800 injuries. The Princeton report concluded that a disproportionate number of flawed tires were produced at Firestone’s Decatur, Ill., plant during a 1994-96 labor dispute, compared to the rate before or after the dispute.

More labor support for single-payer

The latest additions to the list of labor endorsers of HR 676, the single-payer universal health care bill introduced by Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), include five central labor councils — in Jackson, Mich., Newark, N.J., Tampa, Fla., Harrisburg, Pa., and Terre Haute, Ind. The total now is 48 central labor councils. Meanwhile, South Dakota’s AFL-CIO has become the 14th state federation to sign on its support. Local unions getting on the bandwagon include USW 995 in Follensbee, W.Va., Branch 82 of the National Association of Letter Carriers in Portland, Ore., and Plumbers & Pipefitters Local 9 in Elizabethtown, N.J.

AMFA ends strike

After 444 days on the picket line, members of the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association voted 72 percent to 28 percent to accept a settlement and end their strike against Northwest Airlines, Workday Minnesota reported Nov. 7.

The deal gives union members the choice of going on layoff and possibly being recalled in the future or leaving the company with 10 weeks of separation pay. Workers who crossed the picket line and new hires during the strike will keep their jobs.

The strikers faced huge hurdles. Other unions at Northwest did not honor their picket line and the walkout failed to have a major impact on Northwest’s business.

But AMFA Assistant National Director Steve MacFarlane said the sacrifice was worth making.

“The mechanics, cleaners, and custodians went on strike because they could not agree to the elimination of the majority of their own jobs and the jobs of their coworkers,” he wrote in a letter to AMFA members. “There is no shame in fighting and losing — there is only shame in accepting the unacceptable without a fight.”

MacFarlane added, “This battle will likely dissuade other airlines from attempting similar tactics as they realize that although Northwest got the contract they wanted, they also wound up with much higher costs.”

All provisions in the settlement are subject to changes by a bankruptcy court; Northwest has been in bankruptcy since 2005. The airline has demanded a series of concessions from all employee groups, including pilots, flight attendants and ground workers.

This Week in Labor is compiled by Roberta Wood (