Kelly Springfield Employees Meet with Lead Negotiator

Kelly Springfield's contract with Goodyear Inc. officially expires Sunday, but union representatives say employees can work under an extended contract until either side declares a strike or lockout.

If that notice were to come down, union members would have 72 hours before the picketing begins, according to Andrew Palm, vice president and chief negotiator for United Steel Workers of America International.

"Our mission was this was going to be a different negotiation than the one the company normally has," said Palm. In a meeting with employees, Palm told Kelly Springfield employees that a different negotiation means union members will not sign a contract with Goodyear unless certain criteria are in place.

"We're not going to save this company to send three plants over to China," Palm said before Monday's meeting. "We're not going to do it. We're not going to save this company and make retirees pay for their own healthcare. Those are the two main issues -- retiree healthcare and plant closings.

Palm met with local employees to explain why negotiators rejected Goodyear's final proposal last week. Union officials said the show of support among union members in attendance was overwhelming.

"It just put a lot of light on a lot of stuff we've been wondering about," said Michelle Ross, a Kelly employee. "Letting us know where the policy committee stands...we're all behind them."

Employees like Ross are hopeful Goodyear will re-negotiate, but palm says he's not going back to the drawing board until the company finds smarter ways to deal with a 10 billion dollar debt.

For now, the tables haven't turned. But both sides have agreed not to make changes over the holiday weekend. The plant will close Friday night for a routine maintenance check--it reopens Monday.