Local News

Goodyear Seeking Tax Breaks, Union Concessions

Posted October 6, 2006 6:26 a.m. EDT

— Before workers walked out on strike Thursday, the local Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. plant was the company's most productive, rolling 50,000 tires a day out the door.

The plant also provides major traction for the area economy as Cumberland County's largest civilian employer. More than 2,600 people work at the plant, which drives more than $300 million into the local economy every year.

Goodyear also pays $155 million a year in wages and $1.1 million a year in property taxes, and it buys $35 million in supplies from companies within a 50-mile radius.

In August, the company asked state lawmakers for millions of dollars in tax breaks and incentives to modernize its Fayetteville plant. Officials said such a move would keep the plant open.

"I don't think you can just write them a check and say, 'Here,'" said Sen. Tony Rand, D-Cumberland.

Rand is talking with Goodyear about keeping the Fayetteville plant open, but he said the company hasn't specified how much money it needs.

"If we can ensure by a significant capital investment that they stay here, we can help defray the cost of that, and that's what we're talking about," he said.

Goodyear also is seeking concessions from its unionized work force. Members of the United Steelworkers of America, which represents employees at 16 Goodyear plants, said the company's contract proposal calls for wage cuts, higher medical insurance costs and lower retirement benefits.

Thousands of workers walked off the job Thursday afternoon, including about 2,000 in Fayetteville, to protest the lack of a contract agreement with the company.

Jeanie Williams, who has worked at the plant for 30 years, joined her co-workers on the picket line.

"It's for what I believe in, and I think they need to keep the promises that they have told us," Williams said.

Goodyear officials said they are willing to continue bargaining with the union, but they plan to keep the plants running during the strike.