India-based Apollo Tyres plans to acquire Findlay-based Cooper for $2.5 billion, with a shareholders vote planned for later this month.
The United Steelworkers union 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.
An arbitrator has upheld two grievances filed by the United Steelworkers (USW) enforcing the union’s rights in connection with the sale of two Cooper Tire and Rubber Co. plants to Apollo Tyres of India.
Arbitrator James Oldham’s ruling recognized the “successorship clause” in the USW’s labor agreements with Cooper applied to the transaction and ordered Cooper to put the sale of its plants in Findlay, Ohio and Texarkana, Ark., on hold until Apollo and the USW can reach collective bargaining agreements covering about 2,500 USW members at Locals 752L in Texarkana and 207L in Findlay.
“Successorship clauses often are the only thing protecting workers’ rights when sales like this take place,” said USW International President Leo W. Gerard. “Our union has gone to bat time and time again in numerous industries to protect the rights of our members and to make companies live up to their commitments.”
Apollo Tyres agreed to buy U.S.-based Cooper in June for about $2.5 billion in what Oldham described as a “debt-financed buyout” of all of Cooper’s publicly held shares. Apollo would become the 100 percent owner of Cooper.
“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.”
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.