Gadsden plant reacts to UC closure news

Gadsden plant reacts to UC closure news

What is bad news for Obion County and northwest Tennessee is creating “mixed emotions” at the Gadsden, Ala., Goodyear plant.

“It’s easy to understand why United Steelworkers Local 12 president David Hayes isn’t terribly excited about the possibility of additional production coming to Gadsden’s Goodyear plant. 

“It’s coming at the expense of the company’s Union City plant where he and about 300 Gadsden employees worked in 1999 when the plant here was slated for closing,” The Gadsden Times reported on Feb. 11.

“It’s a tough way to pick up production,” Hayes is reported as saying in the Gadsden newspaper.

Times reporter Andy Powell wrote that Hayes is unsure of the exact impact the Union City plant closing will have on the Gadsden plant.

“It’s a sad day. Our heart goes out to the people in Union City, because we were very close to that (closing) in 1999,” Hayes is quoted as saying in The Gadsden Times.

The Goodyear article in the Gadsden newspaper goes on to state Hayes worked at the Union City Goodyear plant for about 10 and a half months and that he suspected there were problems with the Union City Goodyear plant’s future when the company negotiated the employee buyouts in exchange for the plant being removed from the “protected list” in the new union contract in 2009.

“We were hoping it wouldn’t happen,” Hayes is quoted as saying in The Gadsden Times. 

“We were hoping with the economy picking up that they could hang on and we could get them back under the protected list during the master negotiations in 2013. It doesn’t look like that is going to happen.”

Hayes is quoted as saying he has a lot of good friends in Union City. 

“I hate it for them,” he told Powell at The Times. “It just shows the importance of being in protected status.”

On the local front, local and state officials are still scrambling to deal with Goodyear’s bombshell announcement Feb. 10.

There have been numerous meetings during the past week and local officials are beginning to realize the economic impact the plant closure will have on the entire region.

State Rep. Bill Sanderson is asking Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam to do whatever he can to lay to rest rumors about the future of the local Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.

Sanderson said he continues to have numerous calls and visits related to the announcement that rocked the community and surrounding area.

“Folks need closure about this, one way or the other. The rumors have to stop,” he said, noting that many of his callers say they have heard the tire giant is simply trying to “bust” the union. 

Others point to the manufacturer’s plant in Alabama that has experienced a rocky history and say it gives them hope for the local plant.

Sanderson says no one but Goodyear can say with authority whether the closure is a reality that cannot be altered or whether there is still hope for employees and their families, but he believes it is time for the tiremaker to deal with the various rumors in a decisive way and try to put them to rest so employees can begin to plan for the future.

To that end, he is hoping the newly-elected governor will join him in seeking a definitive statement from Goodyear.

In addition, Sanderson said he can say with assurance the governor is extremely concerned about the plant’s closure.

In contact with the office of Speaker of the House Rep. Beth Harwell on Thursday, Sanderson learned he has been invited to a meeting that will include Haslam, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey and Harwell in the next few days. 

At this session, the governor wants to discuss his 12-step plan for the state’s involvement in helping northwest Tennessee deal with the problem. 

“Gov. Haslam is extremely concerned and has told me he will do everything in his power — through the Department of Economic and Community Development — to help ease the pain for this area,” Sanderson told The Messenger.

U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, a frequent visitor to the area in the past and someone Sanderson describes as “a friend to Union City and a friend to the Goodyear plant” is planning a trip to the area in the next week or two, according to Sanderson.

“He wants to come down here and get a feel for what is going on. I’m planning to join him at the time. He has specifically asked what he can do to help and I think it is important for him to actually be here,” Sanderson said. 

Con. Stephen Fincher will be in Union City and plans to visit the Goodyear plant at 11 a.m. today (Thursday), according to a press release from his office.

Editor’s note: Kevin Bowden and Glenda Caudle are staff reporters for the Union City Daily Messenger.

wcp 2/24/11

Leave a Comment