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Arbitrator Takes Control In Cooper/USW Disagreement

Monday, September, 2, 2013


An arbitrator currently wields the power to decide on a case regarding Cooper Tire & Rubber Co.’s contracts with their unionized workers at two U.S. plants.  Right now, the plants located in Texarkana, Arkansas, and Findlay, Ohio are at the hands of an arbitrator reviewing the relevant details.  Cooper currently plans to sell to India’s Apollo Tyres Ltd., although employees argue that this would violate union contract successorship provisions.


The arbitration hearing occurred on August 28, and the special shareholder’s meeting to vote on the proposed sale is scheduled for September 30.  A law professor at Georgetown University, James Oldham, was at the helm for the hearing held in Washington.  Oldham previously served as a permanent arbitrator for the Texarkana plant, and he is expected to release his judgment within 14 days, says Rodney Nelson, president of USW Local 207L, which represents workers at the Findlay plant.


The USW filed a grievance on August 1st claiming that the successorship provisions of the collective bargaining agreement were being violated by Cooper.  They argue that the existing agreement, which is applicable to each plant, was violated when Cooper entered into the merger agreement.


Workers are primarily concerned about job security, which is why they want the negotiations to happen before Apollo acquires Cooper.  The workers want proof in writing regarding their pension and insurance financial protections, too.  Although Cooper Tire has publicly stated that the collective bargaining agreements would stay in place after the merger, local employees are not convinced.  Both Cooper and the USW agreed to binding arbitration to resolve the dispute.


If the local unions and the USW are successful in the arbitration, Cooper or the Apollo parties might be required to enter into an agreement with the USW and each local union establishing terms of employment that are different from what already exists.