Cleveland — Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. and a union representing about 12,600 union workers in the U.S. - including about 1,400 in Topeka - said they tentatively had agreed Friday to a new contract that would end an 11-week strike over health care benefits and Goodyear's plan to close a tire factory in Texas.
The third-largest tiremaker and the United Steelworkers union reached the deal after both sides resumed talks in Pittsburgh early this week. The strike began Oct. 5.
The union says the deal would require Goodyear to drop plans to close the plant in Tyler, Texas, immediately in return for an offer of a retirement buyout. The plant employs 1,100 workers.
The previous three-year labor agreement expired July 22.
"This agreement validates the solidarity of our members and their families, who wouldn't allow the company to walk away from obligations earned through a lifetime of hard work and loyalty," said Leo W. Gerard, United Steelworkers president.
The 12 Goodyear plants covered by the tentative agreement are in Akron, Marysville and St. Marys in Ohio; Tonowanda, N.Y.; Danville, Va.; Fayetteville, N.C.; Gadsden, Ala.; Lincoln, Neb.; Sun Prairie, Wis.; Topeka; Tyler, Texas; and Union City, Tenn.
Glen Griffith, vice president of Local 307, which represents around 1,400 union members in Topeka, said the union will explain the agreement Wednesday and allow members to vote on the proposal through Thursday.
Goodyear said it has made a proposal to its Canadian workers and is awaiting a response. Goodyear has two plants in Toronto and plants in Collingwood and Owen Sound.
During the strike, Goodyear made tires at some of its North American plants with nonunion and temporary workers as well as some managers. That pushed the union to publicly express concerns about the safety of the newly trained workers and the quality of the tires they made. Goodyear said the workers followed the same safety and quality standards that union employees did.
Goodyear has about 80,000 employees and makes tires, engineered rubber products and chemicals in 29 countries.
Gary Schaefer, vice president of the Steelworkers Local 286 in Lincoln, Neb., said he hadn't read the entire agreement and was unsure how members might respond to it.
"We'll call this hurdle one," Schaefer, 54, said of the tentative deal.