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Firestone announced Tuesday it would close its Memphis truck...

By
PAMELA MURPHY

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Firestone announced Tuesday it would close its Memphis truck tire plant next spring, leaving 1,940 workers without jobs.

The company said the move was necessary because of a declining demand for bias-ply tires.

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The shutdown will affect 850 active hourly workers, 260 salaried employes and 830 hourly employes already laid off, said David L. King, executive vice president of Firestone Tire and Rubber Co.'s World Tire Group. Firestone is headquarted in Akron, Ohio.

'The declining demand for conventional bias-ply medium and heavy-duty truck tires can no longer support the operation of the Memphis facility,' King said at a hastily called news conference. 'Firestone will be able to handle all the needs of our customers in all distribution channels.'

King said a statement was read at the plant to members of the United Rubber Workers Union, giving them the six-month notice required by their contract.

King explained that Firestone recognized in October, 1980 that the Memphis plant was facing serious economic problems. Although management and local union officials tried to make revisions in work practices and expenditures in an attempt to save the plant, the problems could not be overcome.

'Unfortunately the reduced market demand for the tires produced at Memphis just does not support the production levels which are needed to make the jointly established survival plan work,' King said.

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Firestone took over the plant in 1937. Employment reached a peak in 1945 when the plant had 7,000 workers. In the middle of the last decade, employment had leveled off to about 3,000 at the Memphis plant.

The Firestone announcement comes on the heels of a decision announced July 29 to shut down the International Harvester plant in Memphis. The Harvester closing left close to 700 Memphis workers out of a job along with another 1,000 workers who had been laid off.

Officials at the United Rubber Workers office said they expected the closing announcement.

'The company announced this morning jointly with the union that they would try their best in job assistance and resumes and that sort of thing,' said John White, union vice president. 'There are not any jobs in Memphis. A little bit of everything has closed here.'

How are his members taking the news?

'They expected it,' White said. 'It's just like having a terminal illness. Finally they pass and it's a relief to a point.'

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