Cooper Tire-Apollo merger faces hurdle

cooper-tire-logoBy Dennis Seid

Daily Journal

An arbitrator said Friday that Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. cannot sell its unionized plants in Findlay, Ohio and Texarkana, Ark., unless Apollo Tyres reaches an agreement with those workers first.

India-based Apollo Tyres plans to acquire Findlay-based Cooper for $2.5 billion, with a shareholders vote planned later this month.

The United Steelworkers has 2,500 union members in those two plants. Cooper Tire’s 1,300 workers in Tupelo are not unionized and not affected by the arbitrator’s ruling.

The USW argued that Cooper had violated portions of collective bargaining agreements at the two plants in which a buyer must negotiate and recognize the “bargaining representative” – in this case, the union.

Arbitrator James Oldham’s ruling recognized the “successorship clause” in the USW’s labor agreements with Cooper and ordered Cooper to put the sale of its Findlay and Texarkana plants on hold until Apollo and the USW can reach collective bargaining agreements.

Cooper Tire said it was disappointed in the ruling and would continue discussions with the union as the two plants continue normal operations, according to the Findlay Courier.

The USW is pleased with the ruling.

“The USW said it looked forward to resuming bargaining with Apollo and Cooper,” said USW Secretary Treasurer Stan Johnson, who chairs the union’s tire bargaining. “Our members are rightly concerned about the debt that will be placed on Cooper as a result of this merger. We intend to work out agreements that protect our members’ interest.”

It’s yet another headache for Apollo and Cooper. In China, Cooper’s joint venture plant in Rongcheng has seen its 5,000 Chinese workers refuse to make Cooper-branded tires in protest of the merger. Cooper’s Chinese partner has asked to dissolve the joint venture, but a court earlier this week postponed a hearing.

dennis.seid@journalinc.com