Rich Kramer, Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. chairman, CEO and president, is speaking out about a photo that went viral that national media outlets say came from a company training session on its zero-tolerance discrimination policy at its Topeka, Kansas, factory.
The photo in question lists what’s acceptable and unacceptable in the workplace. Black Lives Matter (BLM) and gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender pride are listed under acceptable. Blue Lives Matter, All Lives Matter, Make America Great Again (MAGA) attire and political-affiliated slogans or material are listed under unacceptable. The image and story created a Twitter storm after President Donald Trump tweeted, “Do not buy Goodyear Tires. They announced a ban on MAGA hats.”
In a letter published on the company’s Twitter feed Aug. 20, Kramer says the photo came from a slideshow created by a plant employee to try to explain what’s acceptable to wear in the workplace.
“The slide was not approved or distributed by Goodyear Corporate or anyone outside that facility,” Kramer said in the letter. “I deeply regret the impression it has created and want to clarify Goodyear’s position.”
Kramer continued, “To be clear, Goodyear does not endorse any political organization, party or candidate. We have a longstanding company policy that asks associates to refrain from workplace expressions in support of any candidate or political party.
“Second, Goodyear strongly supports our law enforcement partners and deeply appreciates all they do to put their lives on the line each and every day for our communities.”
Kramer said the company has supplied tires to police and fire personnel for more than 100 years and called the partnership “foundational” to Goodyear. He said Goodyear has also revised its policies so that Goodyear employees can express support for law enforcement through apparel at its facilities.
In the story regarding the photo, originally published by WIBW in Topeka, Kansas Aug. 18, a company employee told the news organization the policy was “discriminatory.” One day later, Goodyear published a statement on its Twitter clarifying its corporate policy.
“Goodyear has zero tolerance for any forms of harassment and discrimination,” the statement reads. “To enable a work environment free of those, we ask that associates refrain from workplace expressions in support of political campaigning for any candidate or political party, as well as similar forms of advocacy that fall outside the scope of racial justice and equality issues.”
The United Steelworkers Union (USW) and Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown tweeted in support of Goodyear and the jobs it creates in Ohio and across the county. In his Aug 19. tweet, Brown said, “Trump’s attack on Goodyear is an attack on 64,000 Goodyear employees.”
In a statement released Aug. 19. USW International President Tom Conway criticized President Trump’s tweet calling for a Goodyear boycott. “It would have been nice if the President would have paid as much attention to that loss of American jobs as he does to his MAGA hats. Maybe a tweet or two back then would have been helpful.”
Conway continued, “During the past year, our union and our individual members reached out directly to the President and his White House staff on countless occasions as Goodyear was closing its 90-year-old American tire plant in Gadsden, Ala., which resulted in hundreds of workers losing their jobs.
“This closure happened as imported tires from around the globe flooded the U.S. market, leaving the union no choice but to again file a trade case challenging these unfairly traded imports,” Conway said.
The trade case refers to the USW-prompted investigation into passenger and light truck tires imported from South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam. On July 15, the International Trade Commission (ITC) found that there is “reasonable indication” that PLT tires from the four countries are allegedly being sold in the U.S. at less than fair value and are being subsidized by the government of Vietnam, a press release from the USITC said.