Cooper Tire slows factory production | Business
By Denise Grant - Findlay Courier Staff Writer
Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. is again halting production at its Findlay factory as it tries to balance inventory with slumping sales, but the maneuver is wearing on the workers, union officials said Thursday.
Cooper employees, both salary and union, were told this week that the plant will close from April 1 to April 7. It also will close on the other three Sundays in April, and on May 12.
"These are very critical times in the tire industry," said Rod Nelson, president of United Steelworkers of America Local 207L. The local represents about 1,000 Cooper employees.
The last plant shutdown was for three days in early March.
An influx of Chinese-made tires and the installation of new software are to blame for the slowdown, according to a report filed by Cooper with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Company officials have refused to comment publicly on the shutdowns.
So far this year, the factory has been closed for 17 days, said Ron Rettig, vice president of Local 207L.
While spring is traditionally a slow time for the tire-making industry, Rettig said the continued closings are unusual for the Findlay factory.
"It's been very chaotic, but of course, nothing is typical around here anymore," he said.
Sporadic closings are hard on the paycheck, Rettig said, and make it difficult to offset the loss with state unemployment benefits.
"Going two weeks without a paycheck can really screw up the budget," said Chip Autieri, a 26-year Cooper employee.
Autieri said part of the problem is how the company is scheduling the shutdowns.
For example, after the March shutdown, Cooper resumed operations on a Saturday. For the factory, Saturday is the first day of the work week. However, for the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, Saturday is the last day of the work week. Working just that one day during the week cut Autieri's unemployment check by half.
Rettig also said the company's supplemental unemployment benefit fund is exhausted. All union members contribute to the fund through a regular deduction from their paycheck, and can receive pay when there is no work.
The shutdowns have a "chilling effect" on morale, Nelson said.
"We've already been through a lot," he said.
At this time last year, union workers were just returning to their jobs after a nearly four-month lockout over stalled contract talks.
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