Continental Tire - Week of Action!
ICEM Update, 21 June 1999
Brussels June 21, 1999
The following update has been issued by ICEM this morning.
Add your voice to the campaign!
A week of action against global tyremaker Continental was launched today by the 20-million-strong International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions (ICEM) and the United Steelworkers of America (USWA).
The worldwide protest is over German-based Continental's union-busting at its General Tire plant in the American town of Charlotte, North Carolina. The plant is the site of a strike by 1,450 members of USWA Local 850 over the company's unfair labour practices.
The week of action is occurring as the Charlotte strike enters its tenth month. Continental, which has already been indicted by the U.S. National Labor Relations Board on five counts of violating US federal labour laws, contends it has hired 800 "permanent replacement" workers at the Charlotte facility.
In addition to replacing the striking workforce with these "scabs", Continental cancelled health care coverage for the Charlotte workers and their families just before Christmas and has hired a private security firm to harass and intimidate strikers.
The centrepiece of the action week is a consumer awareness campaign at Ford Motor Company dealerships in 54 US cities. The campaign raises the question, "If quality is Job 1, why is Ford using General tyres?" General tyres are used as original equipment on several Ford models.
In addition to protest action by union members at the Ford dealerships, the USWA has put up large rolling billboards outside the dealerships picturing a flattened General tyre and the question: "Should You Trust Tyres Made by Strikebreakers?"
The USWA is also airing radio commercials throughout the United States that raise questions about the quality of General tyres available to Ford. The union has cited examples of "scores of defects being returned" and tyre stores "refusing to place orders for General tyres until the strike is resolved."
Unions representing Continental workers in other countries will also be stepping up their action in support of the American strikers. Workplace demonstrations, meetings and petition-gathering are expected to take place this week at Continental facilities in Europe and South Africa.
In addition, unions in several other countries will be taking their case against Continental to German embassies and will urge the German government to help resolve the US conflict.
In the US, protest demonstrations are scheduled to take place at German consulates in several cities.
The week of action has also been endorsed by the 22-million-strong International Metalworkers' Federation, which includes unions representing workers at Continental's recently-purchased Teves braking subsidiary and at the automobile companies which are Continental's largest customers, and by the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions.
"This week of action represents an escalation of our united campaign to bring justice to the striking tyre workers in Charlotte," said Vic Thorpe, ICEM General Secretary. "It is appalling that Continental has behaved in such an outrageous manner at its operations in the United States."
The ICEM and the USWA recently filed a complaint with the UN's International Labour Organisation (ILO) concerning Continental's violations of basic worker rights in Charlotte.