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Latest News - December 2011

December 22, 2011
Cooper Tire workers ruled eligible for jobless aid
Source: The Blade
By: Nick Bade

Before the lockout, Cooper Tire and Rubber Co.'s Findlay plant manufactured about 20,000 tires daily. Company officials have declined to give recent production figures. THE BLADE/DAVE ZAPOTOSKY

TOLEDO, OH (THE BLADE) - Officials with Ohio's Department of Job and Family services ruled Wednesday that workers locked out from Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. in Findlay are eligible for unemployment benefits.

Benjamin Johnson, a department spokesman, said the tire manufacturer's employees can apply for benefits immediately. The decision is retroactive to the last week in November.

Cooper Tire, a leading U.S. manufacturer of aftermarket tires for cars and light trucks, locked out 1,050 union employees from its Findlay manufacturing plant Nov. 28 in response to the union rejecting the company's last contract offer.

State law requires the Department of Job and Family Services to hold an eligibility hearing any time 25 or more employees lose work because of a labor dispute such as a strike or lockout. Each side is given a chance to present testimony and evidence to plead its case. The state had 10 days from the Dec. 12 hearing to issue its ruling.

Mr. Johnson said both sides have 21 days to appeal the decision. Company officials did not return requests for comment Wednesday on whether they would challenge the ruling.

Some negotiations have taken place since the lockout, though the two sides don't appear closer to a deal than they did a month ago. Management offered a one-year extension of the current contract, which union leadership rejected.

Cooper has contracted with temporary workers, though company officials have declined to say how many or give production figures.

Under normal circumstances, the plant makes about 20,000 tires a day.

In an email to The Blade last week company spokesman Michelle Zeisloft said the company did not have any comment on its temporary workers "other than to say that we are extremely pleased with their qualifications, work ethic, and adaptability. We are also fortunate to have the full assistance of our salaried employees, a number of whom have plant experience, and assistance from other Cooper plants as needed."

The United Steelworkers, which represent Cooper's employees, filed an unfair labor charge with the National Labor Relations Board in Cleveland.

In Findlay, union members have been picketing and have held several rallies.

Steelworkers' union officials could not be reached Wednesday.

Union officials have called the company's proposal concessionary, while Cooper has said that most workers would not see pay cuts and that the contract would allow the company to be competitive.

Cooper remains profitable, though income through the year's first three quarters fell more than 50 percent from the same period last year.

The previous contract expired Oct. 31.



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