Mayor Don Wesely said today he is "deeply disappointed" by the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company’s plans to "replace long-standing Lincoln employees with low-wage workers in Mexico."
"I am personally saddened by today’s announcement," Wesely said. "Since Goodyear first indicated last January that it might relocate the hose manufacturing facility, I have worked hard to encourage the company and labor leaders to seek an agreement that would keep these quality jobs in our community."
Goodyear announced Friday it would build an automotive rubber hose plant near Chihuahua, Mexico and employ more than 200 people there by 2004. The phase-out in Lincoln ultimately will affect about 480 jobs at the Lincoln plant, which currently employs more than 1,200 people.
When Goodyear announced its intentions last January, Wesely immediately contacted Goodyear management at the local level, Sam Gibara, CEO of Goodyear, local and international Steelworkers Union officials and Nebraska’s state and federal elected representatives to save the hose operation in Lincoln.
The City had worked with the state and had offered up to $1.5 million in state job training funds to help Goodyear through these difficult economic times and to keep the jobs in the Lincoln plant.
On October 6, members of the Steelworkers Local 286 union representing Goodyear employees in Lincoln rejected a company package that would have cut wages but retained jobs. Following the vote, Wesely contacted Goodyear labor and management and urged their return to the table for further discussions everyone could accept.
Wesely thanked U.S. Senator Ben Nelson, Governor Mike Johanns, Congressman Doug Bereuter and U.S. Senator Chuck Hagel for their support and efforts to retain Goodyear’s hose operation in Lincoln.
Wesely, whose father retired from Goodyear after many years in the local Goodyear plant, said low wages in Mexico and Goodyear’s declining stock price have put pressure on the company to make this decision. Goodyear’s stock shares have dropped from $60 in 1998 to $9.34 this month.
"We will work with the Congressional delegation to help secure the federal assistance available under NAFTA to assist the Lincoln workers," Wesely said.
Because the jobs are being relocated to Mexico, local workers who are laid off will be eligible for retraining under the terms of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Each employee may have access to up to $12,000 in federal funds for retraining during the next few years. The Lincoln One Stop Career Center, working in partnership with the state Department of Labor, would administer the NAFTA services. Those wanting more information can contact the Career Center at 441-7111.
The city will also continue to work with Goodyear officials to encourage investment in the remaining belt production line at the Lincoln Goodyear plant.
"Goodyear has been a fixture in Lincoln since 1943," Wesely said. "Lincoln and Goodyear have prospered and grown together, and we all have benefitted from the relationship. I respect Goodyear’s goal of remaining competitive, but I cannot accept that the hose manufacturing facility could not be competitive in Lincoln."
Goodyear’s Lincoln plant was built in about 1920 and first was home to Hebb Manufacturing, which produced trucks. It later was Arrow Aircraft. Goodyear took over in 1943 for wartime manufacturing and bought the facility after the war. Goodyear started making hoses there in 1950.