The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Goodyear strike
– not a big victory
– but not a big defeat

Jan 8, 2007

After nearly three months on strike, workers at 12 Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. plants in 10 states accepted a contract settlement and returned to work on January 2. Since October 5, nearly 14,000 rubber workers represented by the Steelworkers (USWA) union had held their ground, going out on strike against concessions that included the threat to close a plant in Texas, gut retirees’ health care, and impose a wage cut for new hires.

The outcome was certainly not a great victory. Workers still took concessions. But the fact remains, the company did back off from some of its demands, and it deferred the closing of a plant, while offering more money to workers who lose their jobs.

The settlement still includes changes in retiree health care. But the company will be funding the plan for retired workers’ medical benefits at one billion dollars, rather than the originally proposed 660 million dollars.

Of course it’s not fair that workers have to go out on strike for nearly three months in order to have this result. But capitalism is not fair. And for a long time now, corporations across the board have been running rough-shod over the entire working class and attacking wages, pensions, health care, jobs, left and right, taking whatever they wanted.

The significance of this strike can’t be measured only by what Goodyear ceded this time. Because this strike put Goodyear on warning for the future. And not just Goodyear.

Other bosses can see that they might face some resistance if they push too big an attack.

But that also depends on whether other workers decide to take the path hewn out by Goodyear workers.

The gains made by workers in this country during the 1930s did not come in one sudden blow. The movement was the combination of many strikes, only a few at the beginning, where the workers pushed the bosses back a little. But those early strikes – many of which were total defeats – were the sparks that lit the fuse on a vast workers’ movement.

Who can say today what the Goodyear strike can produce tomorrow? Only the workers.