GADSDEN, Ala. (WBRC) - The union president representing Goodyear workers in Gadsden says the old NAFTA deal is costing the area jobs.
A company spokesperson announced last spring there would be some layoffs in Gadsden in the second quarter, but they never gave a number.
The United Steelworkers Union now says that number turned out to be 175 jobs.
Local Union President Mickey Ray Williams now keeps a made-in-Mexico Goodyear Assurance tire in the union hall’s conference room to remind workers about where he says their jobs are going.
He says a Goodyear plant in Mexico is getting those jobs and the Mexican workers are being paid two to three dollars per hour for the same work.
“As (the Goodyear plant in Mexico) comes up online, we’re losing tires. As they build more tires, our production here in Gadsden is decreasing. What has happened is we’re caught up in NAFTA and the free trade deal. We can’t compete here in Gadsden,” Williams said.
The NAFTA deal was re-negotiated in late 2018, but won’t take effect until the three nations that signed the deal get approval from their versions of congress. President Trump has threatened to cancel NAFTA unless Congress approves to the U.S.-Mexico-Canada agreement, but Democrats have indicated they won’t approve it unless Mexico agrees to U.S.-level labor protections, and Republicans won’t approve it without steel and aluminum tariffs being eliminated for Canada and Mexico.
In July, nine congressional Democrats were denied entry into the company's Mexico plant. They did, however, meet with some Mexican workers who were fired for participating in a wildcat strike.
Williams says workers in Gadsden are concerned for their jobs, even their factory.
"There hasn't been a report of a plant closure, but when you look at the second quarterly report, it does not look good for Gadsden, Alabama," Williams says.
He also says some of the 175 - about five - have been called back to work.
Williams asks people to insist on American-made when they buy tires, whether they’re at the Goodyear Service Center on West Meighan Boulevard or any other tire store anywhere.
"Buy American-made, when you go to that store, tell them you want American made tires," Williams says.
The company, however, has a different perspective. We reached out to the Goodyear corporate office in Akron, Ohio, and received this message from spokesperson Melissa Monaco:
“As announced in February, the Goodyear-Gadsden tire plant moved from a seven-day shift to a five-day shift, a reflection of declining demand for the products that are produced at that factory. Workforce reductions were part of that process, with voluntary attrition accounting for a large part of those. No jobs were moved to Mexico as a result of this change.”
Goodyear built the plant in Gadsden in the 1920s, and opened it in 1929. In 1997, a new conference was held in which it was announced the plant would close. However, after what Williams says was a company shakeup in Akron, and after the Ford-Firestone rollover controversy resulted in Ford contracting with Goodyear to make tires for its Ford Explorers, the decision was reversed.