Another strike could be looming—this time at a tire plant in Des Moines.
United Steelworkers Local 310 (USW 310) said contract negotiations with Bridgestone have effectively stalled, and are now shoring up support among elected officials and community leaders to push the company back to the table.
“We are disappointed to report that we have been frustrated by the lack of real progress up to this point,” the union noted in a release last week. “This is due to the company’s refusal to address a number of issues that we have brought to the table.”
The union covers around 950 workers at the plant, which employs around 1,300, according to USW 310.
Union officials said the company wants to “reduce our active and retiree health care benefits, restrict our bidding opportunities and further erode our seniority rights.”
But that’s not because the company has fallen on hard times. Rather, the company’s profits are up.
For the first quarter of 2022 alone, Bridgestone Group—headquartered in Japan—posted an operating profit of more than $87 billion yen, or approximately $634 million in US dollars. That’s a 5% increase over the first quarter of 2021. And the company forecasts an operating profit of more than $3 billion in 2022, a nearly 8% increase from 2021.
“These outstanding numbers are directly related to our hard work and productivity,” USW officials said.
Bridgestone has two locations in Iowa: The Des Moines location manufactures and sells agricultural, forestry and ATV tires, as well as rubber tracks. The Muscatine location, Bridgestone Bandag Tire Solutions, manufactures, markets and sells medium- and heavy-duty truck tires and retreading products. Bridgestone merged with Firestone in 1988.
“Bridgestone is currently engaged in negotiations with representatives of the United Steelworkers (USW) to agree on a new contract for six facilities, including our Des Moines Ag Tire Plant,” the company said in an email to Starting Line. “We are committed to an open and good-faith discussion, and we’re optimistic that a mutually satisfactory agreement can be reached.”
In the last several days, the union has enlisted the support of elected officials and those seeking state and federal office on its Facebook page.
Those taking photos with their “Fair Contract” signs include US Rep. Cindy Axne; Mike Franken, who is running for US Senate; Iowa Rep. Ako Abdul-Samad; Molly Buck, who is running for Iowa House; and Des Moines City Councilor Josh Mandelbaum.
Des Moines business owners at places like Hiland Bakery, Halo Salon and Spa, and 1717 Brewing also showed their support on the union’s page.
Union workers will hold a rally in support of a new contract on the day before it expires: Thursday, July 28, at 11:30 a.m. in front of the plant at 4600 NW Second Ave.in Des Moines. Rallygoers can also come to USW 310 Hall, 125 NE Broadway Ave., at 11 a.m. to march to the plant. A lunch will be provided.
By Amie Rivers
Iowa Starting Line is part of an independent news network and focuses on how state and national decisions impact Iowans’ daily lives. We rely on your financial support to keep our stories free for all to read. You can contribute to us here. Follow us on TikTok, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.