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IN DES MOINES, TITAN IS TRYING TO CRUSH A UNION AT A PROFITABLE PLANT AN INTENTIONAL ACT OF AGGRESSION AND TEXAS SUBSIDIES ARE HELPING THE COMPANY ALONG. Steelworkers Local 164 strike in progress. There’s not much to see, at any rate. Early on the company obtained an injunction limiting the number of strikers to six per plant gate, and so the picket line is less a line than a series of small makeshift pavilions crude wooden frames covered by patched-together tarps, where up to six strikers sit around in old chairs and uprooted car seats. On a muggy evening in August, workers in the westernmost cluster were eating hot dogs and slapping at mosquitoes, while above them a high-intensity surveillance light, installed by the company after the strike’s onset, blinked on and off. All six, who ranged in age from late twenties to early sixties, had been working at the plant since long before Taylor bought it from Pirelli/Armstrong in 1994. When Titan took over, workers accepted a severe pay cut, estimated by the union at $8.50 per hour in wages and benefits lost, so that the company might make the facility, deemed a money-loser by Pirelli, profitable again. Taylor succeeded in turning a profit, partly by instituting retrograde working conditions. “We work twenty-six days in a row. Sixty hours a week plus; a lot of twelve-hour shifts,” said Ya Rasavady, who’s been a tire builder for the past nine years. “You have to take your kid to the doctor, too bad. Morry Taylor don’t care about family, he just cares about money for Morry.” According to Dave Hoyme, a 33-year-old utility relief worker, conditions at the plant deteriorated rapidly after Titan took over. Building tires is hot, heavy, difficult work no matter what, but under Titan “it got more aggressive,” said Hoyme. “They’d be standing over you, there was no piecework, the goal was to push it up, higher and higher.” Hoyme had served as a union steward under Pirelli, but under Titan, he said, “There was no arbitration except for termination. The woman who did ’employee relations,’ she just said ‘No’ all the time. ‘No’: that was the grievance procedure.” A worker who left work early because his wife was giving birth, another who took a day off to go to his wife’s funeral they were written up. “Texas is going to get screwed too,” Hoyme said. “Morry Taylor is going to take the money and screw the people.” As their sixhour strike shift wore on, one or another of the men would occasionally criticize “the company” or “Titan,” but mostly they went after “Morry” himself, a C.E.O. who has created his own little rubber industry personality cult. Taylor styles himself as “THE incorporated himself into the Titan logo as a cartoon bear who wears tight clothes and mirrorshades. He’s known for making colorful statements to the press: during the current Des Moines strike he announced that he’d offered the union “everything but beer and women,” and that his workers’ wives ought to hit their husbands OCTOBER 9, 1998 THE TEXAS OBSERVJR 9