Washington — Goodyear has rebuffed claims of labour violation at its manufacturing facility in San Luis Potosi, Mexico, saying its actions and attitude towards its workers had been misconstrued.
The statement came in response to Ohio senator Sherrod Brown, who accused the tire maker of labour violations and urged it to "take immediate steps to improve the company's compensation and conduct toward (its) workers in Mexico."
“We strongly disagree with Senator Brown’s characterisations. Goodyear recently extended an invitation to members of Congress and their staffs to tour the brand new, state-of-the-art manufacturing plant in San Luis Potosí, Mexico," said Goodyear in a written statement 19 Sept.
The controversy began earlier this year, when four Democrat members of Congress were tasked with obtaining changes to the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement that would ensure bipartisan support.
On 20 July, they visited San Luis Potosi and requested admittance to the Goodyear plant. According to them, Goodyear refused.
After their return, the members of Congress wrote to Goodyear chairman, CEO and president Richard Kramer, saying they were "disappointed" at Goodyear's refusal.
They also said they spoke privately with several workers who were fired from the San Luis Potosi plant after striking.
"The workers provided compelling testimony about the poor working conditions, lack of protective gear and safety and overall training provided to workers, non-reporting of hazards, deductions that are taken from already low wages, and discrimination and harassment (directed at women workers especially) at the Goodyear facility," they wrote.
At the time, Goodyear said it "strongly" disagreed with the assertions in the letter.
Brown followed up with a letter to Kramer on 11 Sept, criticising the company not only for labour conditions at San Louis Potosi but also for building the factory in Mexico.
"Both the company's decision to locate the factory in Mexico and its blocking of congressional access to the facility make it easy to draw conclusions about the company's mistreatment of its workers at the plant," Brown wrote.
Brown said he asked Goodyear to build the plant in Ohio instead of Mexico.
"In addition to pushing for the creation of good-paying jobs in my state, I feared that a Mexico-based plant would lead to the shuttering of US facilities due to significantly labour costs across the border," he wrote.
"It seems my fears have been realised," he added. "Your company recently laid off 170 employees at the Gadsden, Alabama, plant and proposed a buyout at the same facility."
Brown urged Goodyear to increase wages at San Luis Potosi and also to allow the workers union representation other than the Confederation of Mexican Workers, which he said has "historically been aligned with employers."
In its response, Goodyear said it prided itself on its "100 years of maintaining strong working relationships with our associates around the world and the unions that represent them."
"In fact, we are unique among US companies in that a representative of the United Steelworkers sits on our board of directors," the company added.
Only 3.5% of Goodyear tires sold in the US in 2018 were produced in Mexico, the company said.