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Editor's Notebook

Stocking Stuffers: Catching Up and Clearing the Desk Before the New Year

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As you’d expect, I get a lot of questions about the USW contract talks and the future of North America’s tire manufacturing base. And, as you’d expect, my responses are neutral. Anything else is a pure lose-lose proposition.

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But I will say this: The USW’s effort to negotiate in the media with Goodyear shows that decorum has left the building. Bitter labor contract negotiations are nothing new, to be sure, but we have – as if that was possible in this Age of Entitlement – reached new lows.

If I publicly called out my employer, compared it’s head guy to a misguided fictional character, chastised and challenged its integrity, actively drove away customers, and flat out stated that I knew best how things should operate, well, I would expect to become unemployed.

But, in this day and age, that is not the case.

I was raised to know that having any job is a privilege, not a right. Having a good-paying job is earned, not given.

I learned through the years that a corporation’s only requirement is to make money for shareholders, not its ‘associates’ or ‘teammates.’ To do so means operating efficiently and effectively and eliminating those things that are not effective or efficient.

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And, I have come to expect that people be paid a fair wage, one commensurate with their contribution to the success of the corporation and competitive with prevailing wages for similar jobs.

One last thing: If you insist on taking credit for success, you best be prepared to take credit for failure.

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With its hefty strike fund, the Steelworkers likes to say that its 16,500 Goodyear members could stay on the picket line for two years. But, how many of the USW’s other 833,500 members would like to see that $150 million strike fund eaten up by just 2% of its membership? Just asking.

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Popular post-election (Glad that’s over!) question: What will the power shift in Congress mean to the tire industry and automotive aftermarket?

Nothing, I expect. The Democrat majority will spend the next two years justifying its election as the majority party. So it will work on impact issues near and dear to voter hearts – Iraq, the economy, minimum wage, and adjustments to tax laws. Frankly, that’s a pretty full platter for the 18 months before the next election cycle.

One item that has a chance is the Association Health Plan bill, which plays right to the middle class and small business.

Things like Right to Repair legislation and that tire fuel efficiency bill RMA floated won’t see the light of day. After wallowing on Capitol Hill for the last two years, Right to Repair is probably best handled at the state level anyway. However, that does not diminish its importance to our industry and your livelihood. You need to get active on this issue and start talking to your state legislators. It’s about customer choice, so get your customers involved, too.

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Hate to say it, but the auto industry has a great easy-to-grasp consumer Web site to help explain the mysteries of TPMS and the importance of proper inflation pressure. The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers (AAM) put checkmytires.com together. Lots of cool info on it, too. And, best of all, the AAM is promoting the dickens out of it! Check it out and don’t be bashful about recommending it to your customers…at least until the tire industry comes up with something. Geez, we deal with TPMS every day, don’t we?

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“Well, if I don’t do it somebody else will.” I am still stunned every time I hear/read such a comment from a tire dealer selling tires to car dealer competition. I may be simple minded, but I still believe that there is such a thing as a bad sale. What that statement really means is: “I’m happy to lose profits selling to a competitor who is stealing my customers and trying to put me out of business.”

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On the mend now, but minor health problems forced me to miss my first SEMA Show in many years. Worst part was not seeing many fine friends and colleagues. I appreciate all the calls, e-mails and kind thoughts. The best part about this industry is its people, and as physically grueling as that show is (didn’t miss that part), not being with you reminded me just how special the tire industry is.

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On behalf of the entire TR staff, we wish you peace this holiday season and hope yours is a bountiful and safe new year.

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