Taylor: Titan not at fault

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 30, 2001

During Steelworkers’ almost three-year strike from Titan Tire of Natchez, much publicity has centered on unsuccessful efforts by Titan and union officials to negotiate a contract.

But on Wednesday, Titan Chief Executive Officer Morry Taylor testified that he accepted a contract handed down by Grady Jolly, a judge in the bankruptcy case of Condere Corp., Titan’s predecessor at the Natchez plant.

&uot;The union terminated the agreement,&uot;&160;Taylor said.

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Taylor took the stand during the second day of a hearing on a complaint the National Labor Relations Board brought against Titan last year.

The complaint was filed by Local 303L, which has been on strike from the Natchez plant since September 1998.

The complaint charges that Titan did not have the right to fire about 250 workers when it took over the plant that month without first negotiating with the union.

Later, Fred Frost, a trustee of Local 303L, testified that employees of the Natchez plant were told that if the union &uot;did not accept it (the contract), we would be terminated.&uot;

Frost testified that he and other workers received a letter from Titan officials Sept. 4, 1998 said they would be terminated without benefits. Frost said he then interviewed for a new job at the plant, which had then been bought by Titan. During that interview, he said, he was asked by management if he would cross the picket line to work.

He said he was told that he would make 80 percent of the $12.95 an hour he was paid by Condere but that &uot;the union had a letter that if they signed it, I&160;would get 100 percent.&uot;

Taylor said in a meeting with employees &uot;that if we didn’t have a contract it would be the union’s fault,&uot;&160;Frost said, adding that Taylor told workers the union was &uot;selling us up the river.&uot;

In his testimony, Taylor said that he figured buying the bankrupt plant would be a good investment, even though &uot;it was a mess&uot;&160;when he first saw it.