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Vol. 76/No. 7      February 20, 2012

Locked-out tire workers
in Ohio win solidarity
Reach out from Serbian workers to Toledo students
FINDLAY, Ohio—Members of United Steelworkers Local 207L locked out of their jobs for more than 10 weeks continue to gain support in their battle against Cooper Tire and Rubber Co.

The lockout began Nov. 28 after the workers voted 606-305 to reject the company’s “last, best and final offer” to cut wages, speed up work and establish lower pay and benefits for new hires.

In an interview with the Militant, Rob Greer, a locked-out worker and Rapid Response and Political Coordinator of USW Local 207L, described his recent trip to Serbia as part of a USW delegation that included Theresa Brown, another locked-out worker.

“Shortly after we were locked out, Cooper Tire announced they were buying Trayal Tires in Krusevac, Serbia,” Greer said. “The workers, members of Nezavisnost, the Trade Union of Chemistry, Nonmetal Energy and Mining, sent us a letter of solidarity and invited us to visit them.”

Greer said there are 490 people who work at the plant.

“Cooper bought the plant, let everyone go and then rehired them for a probation period and after 90 days they are to be able to start to organize again,” noted Greer.

They also visited a fertilizer plant represented by Nezavisnost and met with local union officials. Greer said that they were told the plant had been bombed in the U.S.-led NATO war in 1999.

Workers in Serbia, like those in much of Europe, are being hit hard by the unfolding capitalist economic crisis rooted in a slowdown of production, trade and employment. Joblessness in Serbia stands officially at 23.7 percent.

“Some workers in Serbia are waiting three months for paychecks,” Greer said.

He and local President Rod Nelson got a good response from students at Toledo University, Greer stated, where they were invited to speak to a class by a sociology professor who supports their fight.

“We spoke to a class of 50 and talked about the lockout and what it represents,” Greer said. “One student asked, ‘How can you be mad at scabs when they need to work?’ We explained that the economy and what corporations are doing is putting those workers in that position, pitting worker against worker to get wages as low as possible.”

Members of USW Local 752L at Cooper Tire in Texarkana, Ark., approved a four-year contract in a 1,006-141 vote Jan. 26. It does not include the company’s original demand for a five-tier wage scale.

On Feb. 6 the company resumed negotiations with the Findlay local and a federal mediator. Talks broke off the next day, Local 207L President Nelson told the press, with no agreement.
Related articles:
Longshore workers win union at EGT terminal
Caterpillar shuts Canada plant, workers picket for severance pay
Using bankruptcy, American Airlines to lay off 13,000
Wood donation aids sugar workers’ pickets
On the Picket Line  
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