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STRIKING RUBBER WORKERS CHANT ANTI-JAPAN SLOGANS

SHARE STRIKING RUBBER WORKERS CHANT ANTI-JAPAN SLOGANS

Hundreds of striking rubber workers and their supporters chanted anti-Japanese business slogans Saturday in a unity march past the Bridgestone-Firestone plant.

"There's a mental war going on right over here now," Jim Pope, an official of the United Rubber Workers union, told a rally at the end of the quarter-mile march. "They're trying to play the game out that they can scare the hell out of everybody and get them back to work."From the crowd came shouts of, "No way."

Some 4,200 members of the URW have been on strike since July 12 at five plants owned by Bridgestone Corp. of Tokyo.

The union's contract expired April 23. Negotiations broke off when the strike began and no talks have been held since then. Members of management have been operating plants at 20 percent to 30 percent of normal capacity.

The company said last week it had hired 200 replacement workers for the various plants. URW members had been averaging $17 an hour; the company has offered replacement workers $12 an hour.

The URW complains that Bridgestone-Firestone wants to eliminate cost-of-living allowances, start 12-hour shifts, tie raises to productivity, end holiday pay and reduce some salaries.

There was no company response to Saturday's demonstration. Calls to Bridgestone-Firestone Corp. headquarters in Nashille were not answered.

The banner that led Saturday's parade, similar to a union-sponsored billboard nearby, declared: "Japanese owned Bridgestone-Firestone is treating American workers and their families unfairly."

"Japan lost the war but they're trying to win the economy war," said Perry Chapin of Des Moines, on a leave of absence from the plant to serve as president of the South Central Iowa Federation of Labor.

Sinclair was asked after the rally if he worried about appearing racist.

"That's unfortunate if they think that," he said. "Am I concerned about offending them? No."