Without a Contract or Union 

Protection, Tire Maker’s Retirees 

Find Battle Insurmountable, But 

Discover Silver Lining

What started off as a casual conversation over lunch among 15 to 20 Continental Tire North America retirees in 2001 led to the launching of a regional retiree advocacy organization that after three years of efforts has gotten its founders more than they ever planned for. 

Headquartered in Charlotte, NC, Continental Tire has 9,000 employees, with five North American manufacturing plants, including Ohio, North Carolina, Kentucky, Illinois, and Mexico. 

Continental Tire North America supplies passenger car tires to leading automotive companies such as BMW, Ford, General Motors, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Toyota, and Volkswagen. 

With 21 plants worldwide, the company produces over 96 million passenger and truck tires each year. However, the global success of the company has not translated to a satisfied and contended body of retirees.

Early in 2002, retirees created the Continental General Salaried Retirees Association (http://www.cgretire.org) with a mission to alter the company’s efforts to decrease retiree benefits and increase the pass along cost to the retiree. 

The retiree association members include former salaried and management employees including supervisors, engineers, chemists, Vice Presidents, and the clerical staff. 

Organizers hoped to rely on the group of several hundred to communicate and grow their efforts via email, a retiree website, an organizational newsletter, as well as meetings and telephone conferences. 

For three years, the retirees held regular meetings in states like Illinois, Kentucky, and North Carolina, all primary plant locations, to fight the company’s benefit changes. 

Through that entire time period, the retirees met only with a growing series of dead ends and roadblocks. 

According to Ted Hill, a former Human Resources Director at the Charlotte, N.C. plant and President of the Continental General Retiree’s Association, the retirees began contemplating stronger action against the company, after it exhausted many avenues and its efforts failed to bear fruit. 

“We felt that if we boycotted the company either via picketing in front of the corporate headquarters or at stores that sold their products, the company would have second thoughts about their actions,” said Hill. 

But, members of the retiree group were hesitant to take such actions, as they felt loyal to the company they had worked so hard to build up in their working years. 

“Many members didn’t realize that this was an entirely different company from the one we had worked for in the past,” said Hill. 

The Continental Tire retirees say the company made gradual changes in their policies regarding retiree benefits. For example, retirees recall that health care benefits had been free for retirees. 

“Over a period of a few years, that same retiree was paying $400 to $500 a month for the same thing that was free when he or she retired.” 

With a representative membership of only approximately 200 scattered across a dozen states, the group found little to no success in attempting to negotiate with the company on behalf of the retirees. 

This group of retirees represented members with neither a contract with the company nor a union representing them, said Hill. 

“All we had was the good will of the company, and we had to trust that they would stand behind what they had promised.” 

In the end, although their attempts to recover benefits from the company were unsuccessful, what they did create has evolved into a valuable support and peer network for retirees. 

While they admit failing as retiree advocates, they have succeeded in building important bridges to fellow Continental Tire retirees throughout the country. 

On regular occasions, the Continental retirees gather over lunch or use the links they established through the retiree association to share common problems and concerns.

While Hill says they didn’t get what was promised, it sure seems that they have gotten more than they ever imagined by networking with other retirees through the retiree association. 

“We made an honest effort to solve a problem, and although we weren’t entirely successful, some good did come from our efforts,” said Hill.

Continental General Tire Salaried Retirees Association
Headquarters: Charlotte, North Carolina

Email Contact: hill1330@carolina.rr.com
web site: www.genretire.homestead.com/1.html