Strikes, Scabs and Tread Separations: Labor Strife and the Production of Defective Bridgestone/Firestone Tires
68 Pages Posted: 4 Mar 2003 Last revised: 31 Oct 2010
Date Written: March 2003
This paper provides a case study of the effect of labor relations on product quality. We consider whether a long, contentious strike and the hiring of permanent replacement workers by Bridgestone/Firestone in the mid-1990s contributed to the production of an excess number of defective tires. Using several independent data sources we find that labor strife in the Decatur plant closely coincided with lower product quality. Count data regression models based on two data sets of tire failures by plant, year and age show significantly higher failure rates for tires produced in Decatur during the labor dispute than before or after the dispute, or than at other plants. Also, an analysis of internal Firestone engineering tests indicates that P235 tires from Decatur performed less well if they were manufactured during the labor dispute compared with those produced after the dispute, or compared with those from other, non-striking plants. Monthly data suggest that the production of defective tires was particularly high around the time wage concessions were demanded by Firestone in early 1994 and when large numbers of replacement workers and permanent workers worked side by side in late 1995 and early 1996.
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation