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Government Issues Warning on Additional Firestone Tires Amid Ongoing Recall, Labor Woes

Aired September 1, 2000 - 2:05 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Beset by a massive tire recall and a possible strike, Firestone is taking another hit this afternoon. CNN has learned the government is issuing a warning about another 1.8 million Firestone tires. At the same time, Firestone and the Steelworkers face a deadline that could shut down nine factories.

We get the latest on efforts to avert a strike from CNN's Ed Garsten in St. Louis, Missouri where the union is headquartered -- Ed.

ED GARSTEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kyra, the two sides have been going at it. They went at it all night last night. They took a break for a few hours, but they've been back at it since early this morning on the fourth floor of this hotel outside of St. Louis.

We are told by both sides that progress is being made. A spokesman for the United Steelworkers, which represents the tire workers, says the talks are intensive and extensive. The talks covered some 8,000 workers at nine different plants around the country.

We are told, though, that three plants that make replacement tires are not affected because two of them are in the South, they are nonunion, and one is up in Canada.

While talks may be going well, a union spokesman says his members are ready to walk if they have to.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LARRY ODUM, UNITED STEELWORKERS OF AMERICA: We've been negotiating since early March, about six months now, and it's time for the company to give us a contract that we deserve. Negotiations can't go on any longer. We've given them a chance to come up with a fair contract, just contract, and we think it's time to move on now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GARSTEN: Well, Firestone says it feels very hopeful that a strike will be averted. They feel that the replacement effort is in very good shape.

There was a conference call with Ford just a little while ago. They told us that there are actually 30 different brands aside from Firestone involved in the replacement efforts, so they feel that the folk will get their replacement tires in time.

Also, Kyra, relating back to what you were talking about, the NHTSA advisory that may be going out this afternoon for some 1.4 million tires, Ford says it believes that the advisory will involve one year of Chevrolet Blazers, three years of Nissan trucks, as well as F series pickup trucks that are made by Ford. Firestone says -- and Ford says as well -- they have not seen the advisory. They couldn't comment more substantially than that. But they both said that they would have statements once they get a look at it.

Ed Garsten, CNN, reporting live from St. Louis -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Ed, one quick question. If the workers do walk out, what will Firestone do?

GARSTEN: Firestone will -- it will just be another thing piled on this beleaguered company. They have not said what their contingency plans are. Every time we asked them, they said, you know what? we're not even going to talk about that. We're just going to remain hopeful and optimistic that a strike can be averted, and we don't even want to talk about what would happen if the workers walk out.

PHILLIPS: All right, Ed Garsten, thank you.

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