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United Steelworkers OK contract with Goodyear

PITTSBURGH — Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. employees approved a proposed three-year contract, allowing the nation's biggest tire company to contain health care, benefit and wage costs in return for job security, company and union officials said Monday.

The agreement was approved by about 70 percent of the United Steelworkers' Goodyear employees who voted and all but one of the company's 14 union locals. Ratification required approval by at least eight locals and an overall majority.

The contract, which replaces one that expired April 19, covers at least 16,000 employees at 14 plants in Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina, Illinois, Alabama, Nebraska, Wisconsin, New York, Kansas, Texas and Tennessee, plus about 22,000 retirees.

"In the short-term, we made certain sacrifices to provide the company with the flexibility it needs to financially restructure, while maintaining quality health care benefits for both our active and retired members," said United Steelworkers President Leo W. Gerard.

The contract gives 12 Goodyear facilities a "protected plant" designation, which means the sites must remain open under "all but the most extreme circumstances," according to the Steelworkers. Minimum-staffing levels must be maintained at those plants and the company can't transfer production from a protected facility to a plant staffed by nonunion workers.

The company, which makes tires, rubber products and chemicals, also is obligated to consider protected plants first when developing new products for sale in North America, the union said.

The new contract restricts imports and the company's right to transfer production. It also downsizes management at the corporate headquarters and shop floor. The Steelworkers also gain a seat on Goodyear's board of directors.