The United Rubber Workers Union yesterday set a strike deadline of midnight Friday for its stalled negotiations with Uniroyal Inc. and said it will sue to bar the Carter administration from further interference in its contract bargaining.
The two moves, announced by URW President Peter Bommarito after a three-hour meeting with the union's policy committee in Akron, Ohio, hold out a glimmer of hope-but not much more-that the bitter contract dispute can be resolved short of a strike.
Talks between the union and Uniroyal broke off Friday with the two sides far apart, and no new negotiations had been scheduled as of late yesterday.
The union's legal action is expected to come today or tomorrow as a request for an injunction to bar the government from denying federal contracts to firms that violate the administration's anti-inflation guidelines.
The AFL-CIO, in concert with the URW and other affiliated unions with contract negotiations this year, filed suit several weeks ago challenging the government's legal authority to use such sanctions in trying to enforce its "voluntary" guideline program. The URW plans to go one step further and seek an injunction, although union lawyers said yesterday that details have yet to be worked out.
The "Big Four" rubber companies-Goodyear, Goodrich, Firestone and Uniroyal-have millions of dollars worth of federal contracts and have been under intense pressure from government inflation fighters to settle within the administration's 7 percent guideline for annual wage and benefit increases.
Bommarito has charged that Uniroyal, targeted by the union as the pattern-setter for an industrywide agreement, reneged on a contract agreement reportedly far in excess of the guideline after the government and industry officials "pounced" on the company and forced it to back off.
Government officials have said the agreement would have amounted to about 40 percent over three years on an industrywide basis and strained the already stretched guideline to the breaking point.
A court injunction against government sanctions presumably would leave Uniroyal and the other rubber companies free to bargain without fear of official reprisals.
The URW, which has 55,000 workers at the four rubber companies, including 8,200 at 12 Uniroyal plants, has been working without a contract since April 20. It had targeted Uniroyal for possible strike action but had set no deadline until yesterday.
Bommarito has been reluctant to strike Uniroyal, which has closed five domestic tire plants since a 141-day rubber industry strike three years ago. Industry observers believe the company could be forced to close more if it is hit with a protracted strike. Bommarito was seen as having no alternative to striking, or at least setting a strike deadline, after the talks broke off Friday.
While he is willing to reopen negotiations, Bommarito repeated that he wants the industry bargaining team to include a company officer with authority to bind Uniroyal to an agreement. He also threatened to file charges of unfair labor practices and bad-faith bargaining against Uniroyal for allegedly backing of the earlier agreement.
Uniroyal executives have denied they agreed to economic terms for a new contract, but Bommarito has maintained that the company even agreed to a press release announcing a settlement before the government intervened.