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The USW ‘Praises’ $122 Million Investment In Sumitomo Rubber USA’s Tire-Making Plant Outside Buffalo - As A Result, Local 135L Leadership Says Company Will Be ‘Adding More Workers’ In The Months To Come

Published Monday, February 15, 2021
by Labor News Services & WNYLaborToday.com Staff
The USW ‘Praises’ $122 Million Investment In Sumitomo Rubber USA’s Tire-Making Plant Outside Buffalo - As A Result, Local 135L Leadership Says Company Will Be ‘Adding More Workers’ In The Months To Come

(BUFFALO, NEW YORK) – The United Steelworkers (USW) are praising the announcement by Sumitomo Rubber USA that it will invest $122 million into its Buffalo-area tire-making plant and are welcoming what the Union believes will be a multitude of new hires that will offer the opportunity to work through retirement based on the level of commitment that’s being made to the Western New York facility.

“We’ve ‘very happy.’  ‘We’ve been waiting for this for a while.’  Our Membership ‘is very excited about all of this, without a doubt,’” USW Local 135L President Tom O’Shei tells WNYLaborToday.com. 

“A lot of this ‘included us needing to get our production numbers up.’  ‘Now the struggle is behind us’ and ‘we’ll be changing over from one product line to another.’  The ‘switch will be the largest ever’ (in the tire industry).  (Sumitomo) is a ‘very good’ employer,” he said.

On its website (www.srigroup.co.jp/english/newsrelease/2021/sri/2021_012.html), Sumitomo posted the following statement:

Sumitomo Rubber Industries, Ltd. is pleased to announce that, in order to respond to increased demand driven by strong sales of our high-performance tires for SUVs and light trucks in the North American Market, our group has decided to invest in increasing production capacity for passenger car tires and light truck tires at our factory in the United States.

With a planned investment of $96 million, this capacity increase will see the factory’s daily maximum output in these tire categories increase from the current 6,500 tires per day to 12,000 tires per day by the end of 2023.

At the same time, in response to increasing sales of truck and bus tires in North America, we have also decided to invest $26 million to increase production capacity in these categories at our USA Factory from the current 1,750 tires per day to 2,300 tires per day by the end of 2024.

All told, we are planning to invest a total of $122 million in order to augment production capacity and improve overall productivity at our factory in the United States over the coming years.

The Tonawanda plant makes Falken-branded tires and Dunlop Motorcycle Tires.  

The company said the expansion will allow the facility to supply more Falken-branded passenger, SUV, truck and bus tires to customers in North America, with reduced sales lead times.

“Our customers demand exceptional tires and this investment improves our tire building capabilities, doubles our output, increases our speed to market and enhances the high-quality tires made in this facility," Sumitomo Rubber USA President and CEO Yasutaka Ii said in a released statement. "It also reinforces our commitment to our strong team members and our community here in Tonawanda and Western New York.”

Meanwhile, the investment - USW’s Local 135L President O’Shei tells Your On-Line Labor Newspaper, will provide a number of new employment opportunities at the plant, which will take those who come aboard through retirement, a working life of 20 to 30 years.

“The company’s still hiring and for those who recommend new Employees who complete a six-month period, there’s a ($500) referral bonus,” he said. 

“For those who are coming in now, ‘they’ll be able to retire from this place.’  The starting wage is ($20.65) an hour, with great benefits.  Our Production People make ($32) and hour and our Skilled Trades ($37) an hour.  The average yearly wage and benefit package comes out at around ($80,000),” O’Shei said.

USW Local 135L currently represents 1,000 Members who are employed at the Sumitomo Plant.

O’Shei also told WNYLaborToday.com that he’s “proud” of his Membership, who have followed the rules and stayed safe for the most part during the Coronavirus Pandemic.

“They’ve ‘done very well,’” he said.  “They’re ‘keeping safe’ in their socially-distanced jobs.”

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