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CNN Today

Bridgestone/Firestone Workers Celebrate Tentative Labor Day Agreement

Aired September 4, 2000 - 1:01 p.m. ET

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

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Workers at Bridgestone/Firestone have something to celebrate this Labor Day, and embattled company officials appear to have solved one of their many problems. A tentative agreement on a new contract has averted a strike that could have hindered efforts to replace those recalled tires.

Some Bridgestone/Firestone workers are attending a Labor Day picnic in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, today, and CNN's Mark Potter is there for that.

Mark, tell us all about it.

MARK POTTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, hi, Lou. Yes, we're at the backyard barbecue party. These are workers from Bridgestone/Firestone. They're also labor union members. They're celebrating two things. They're celebrating Labor Day and they're celebrating the new, tentative agreement.

After round-the-clock negotiations, negotiators for Bridgestone/Firestone and the United Steel Workers of America did come up with a tentative contract deal. Now, it must be ratified by some 8,000 members in nine -- in nine plants in seven states, and that will take some weeks to get that done.

We're joined now by Larry Odum, who's a regional coordinator with the steelworkers' union.

Larry, first of all, what are the chances of getting this deal ratified easily?

LARRY ODUM, UNION COORDINATOR: Well, I think the contract will be ratified pretty good. There was a lot of excitement coming out of St. Louis. President Gary Manning said there was substantial progress made and a lot of excitement. So I think the ratification will come on...

POTTER: So this is seen as a good deal for these workers?

ODUM: Yeah, we think it's a good deal, and we're excited that the agreement came on a day like Labor Day today, a traditional holiday for the workers.

POTTER: And what does this mean for the company? How important was it for the company to get this deal?

ODUM: Well, most definitely the company could not get through the recall and the problems they're facing today without the union folks and the union people at work.

POTTER: And what's the mood of these people now that there has been this agreement toward helping the company get out of its problems.

ODUM: Well, we're going to work through and once we see the ratification -- see the actual contract -- and I think the mood here is excitement right now, just excitement. Excitement about a tentative agreement. Excitement that to try to help them through their problems.

POTTER: OK, Larry, thank you very much for your time.

ODUM: Thank you.

POTTER: We appreciate you talking to us.

Now that the labor issue has been dealt with, the company's attentions must turn toward Washington. On Wednesday, officials from Bridgestone/Firestone and the Ford Motor Company will be testifying before Congress about their handling of the tire problem and the tire recall. They will be asked what they knew about the problem and when they knew it.

In addition, on the financial front, the parent company of the tire manufacturer, the Bridgestone Company, which is based in Japan, has been having some problems on the Tokyo Stock Exchange. Today its stock was reported down 6.8 percent and in the last month alone, since this crisis began, the stock has plummeted by 51 percent. So, the company still has a lot of hard work ahead of it.

Lou, back to you.

WATERS: All right, Mark Potter in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, on this Labor Day.

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