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Local, state leaders, concerned citizens still waiting for reply from Giti CEO

Published: Nov. 29, 2021 at 6:58 PM EST
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CHESTER, S.C. (WBTV) - Chester County and state leaders are demanding better working conditions for employees at a tire manufacturing plant in Richburg.

The leaders want to meet with the CEO of Giti Tire to discuss workers “being treated without dignity.” They are giving Giti until December 3 to respond.

The letter was signed by more than 45 local and state leaders, religious figures and union representatives demanding a sit-down meeting with Giti’s CEO, but the representative that handed it over does not know if it was delivered. According to him, an officer, who came to clear the group from the front gates, told the group he would deliver the letter to a manager himself.

”I was really disturbed,” says Councilwoman Tabatha Strothers.

Last week, she and about 40 people stood at the front entrance with a handwritten letter for the company’s CEO. The group has been hearing directly from employees who say the working conditions have not been good.

”This is an outrage. Our whole community should be outraged,” she says.

The group, who came here a week ago, included concerned citizens, religious leaders, and several state representatives. They say anonymous reports from workers detail mandatory overtime, unpredictable schedules, and low wages.

Singapore-owned Giti Tire opened its South Carolina facility in 2017 and employs almost 750 people. When the company signed on to come to Chester County, it promised 1,700 jobs within 10 years. Strothers says the company broke promises, which she feels is unacceptable.

“As elected officials, we need to require more of them and see to it that they live up to what they have promised,” says Strothers.

For her, this also means living up to the promises made by Giti when the company arrived in Chester County in 2017. Despite promises of a $20 wage and 1,700 hired workers, employees say the pay is about $12 for some and less than 750 people are working at the plant according to Chester County Economic Development. In a statement sent to WBTV, Giti says they have 600 workers at the plant. The company is hiring.

”You can’t mistreat people as if it’s ok because it’s not,” says Strothers.

The letter asks Giti to re-establish a commitment to livable wages and the ability to unionize. So far, no response from the company.

”It shows a refusal to answer our calls. And so this is a lesson learned,” says Representative John King, a York representative who was also signed and delivered the letter to Giti.

He says the lesson learned does not mean they give up this current fight for the Giti workers. However, he feels like moving forward, other companies should have some kind of contractually built-in repercussions if workers step forward with major grievances. He says that should be included when discussing tax breaks for new companies that come to the area.

”Just because someone doesn’t respond doesn’t mean we wash our hands of it. No, we’re gonna fight like hell for those people because they have fought for us to represent them and be their voices,” says King.

Giti Tire did respond to our request for comment. The company’s Director of Industry Relations, David Shelton, says “As a member of the Chester County community, Giti Tire always welcomes sincere and legitimate input from our team members and other community members. As a core principle, Giti Tire works very hard to ensure we have all the facts and accurate information before taking action.” The statement did not mention receiving the letter or responding by the deadline.

WBTV asked Strothers what the next steps are if Giti does not comply with their demand to meet by Friday. She says they are working on a plan but did not want to expand on specifics. She did say that they will have more resources and more people to continue the fight.

The full statement from Giti here:

Giti Tire is proud to call South Carolina home to our state-of-the-art manufacturing facility where dedicated team members produce high-quality, American-made tires. We’ve been able to provide an exceptional array of jobs in Chester County for operators, technicians, polymer experts, engineers in chemical, mechanical, civil, computer science, and electrical fields, administrative, finance and accounting, and many others all while providing strong benefits and competitive salaries.

As a member of the Chester County community, Giti Tire always welcomes sincere and legitimate input from our team members and other community members. As a core principle, Giti Tire works very hard to ensure we have all the facts and accurate information before taking action. We certainly hope others will also be diligent in confirming the facts and evaluating items coming from parties outside of our Chester County operations who are providing false and misleading information. We recognize this is part of an organized, union-led effort. People who have been a part of our community, and surrounding communities, know that you can have problems with union representation that can hurt job security and long-term success. These are facts people need to know before even thinking a union is best for them and their families.

At Giti Tire, we have always recognized that our team members are the strength of our operations and the key to our future success. This was exceptionally clear as the United States reopened from the COVID-19 shutdown. Like many companies, we experienced an increase in demand for our products, requiring a dramatic production response. Our Giti Tire team joined together and sacrificed time and energy to restart operations and serve our customers. Once operations fully restarted and demand normalized, our production and schedules also returned to a more balanced work life experience and we were able to provide a salary increase for many.

Over the last 20 months, Giti Tire has also increased employee communications and engagement as we have worked to navigate the pandemic. Our 600 employees are our number one priority and most valuable asset. We believe they can, and should, be able to communicate directly with us without the need of a third party such as a union.

Therefore, we always welcome the opportunity to hear from employees and provide open lines of communications. We also want to ensure citizens in South Carolina know the facts and we look forward to sharing our story. Chester County is an excellent home for Giti Tire. We are continuing to invest in our South Carolina operations as we plan to be here for many years to come.

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