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SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 10, 2006
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EDITORIAL

Goodyear sale scary, but indications positive

The news that a South Korean company is buying the Decatur Goodyear plant cannot help but cause anxiety for the plant's 405 employees, but all indications are that the change in ownership will not dramatically affect them.

And it's a whole lot better than a plant closing.

Goodyear announced some time ago that it would begin selling off non-core assets, so the announcement was not a huge surprise.

The best news about the deal is that it comes with guaranteed demand for Decatur's tire fabric. Goodyear agreed to purchase the new owner's fabric for up to 10 years. That's no guarantee that all the employees, or even the plant itself, will survive the transaction, but it gives plenty of room for hope. It is a well-run plant, and it is doubtful the new owner could maintain production at current levels while significantly reducing the number of workers.

The news comes at a difficult time for the employees, though. Their union contract expired Aug. 6, and they have been working hard to arrive at a new agreement that preserves their wages and benefits. The entry of a new owner, Hyosung Corp., creates uncertainty as to the status of the union negotiations. While Hyosung is not talking, it apparently has provided some assurances to Goodyear that it would honor a new union contract.

Almost certainly, though, it will not be required to honor the contract. A national representative of the union said the new agreement, when signed, will not include successorship language. That's important because successorship language would prevent Goodyear from selling the plant to a buyer unwilling to abide by the contract.

So the union is faced with the difficult problem of deciding whether to continue negotiations with Goodyear, knowing that it may have to start negotiations from scratch with Hyosung.

While Hyosung may not be required to honor a new contract, we hope it will do so. Local employees have been the key to the plant's success, and positive relations between them and the new owner will help it remain successful.

We wish the workers well in the coming tense weeks, and we join them in the hope that business as usual will continue under Hyosung ownership.

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