Topeka, KS – The morning after leaked audio from a training session at the Topeka Goodyear plant confirmed the company’s “zero tolerance” policy banning “Blue Lives Matter” apparel, Goodyear changed its tune and announced employees could wear pro-police clothing in its facilities.
The Police Tribune reached out to Goodyear on Thursday for comment on the newly-leaked audio of the training and received a letter to customers from Goodyear CEO Rich Kramer.
“By now, you are aware of a visual from our Topeka factory that has been circulating in the media, and I want to personally clear the record on what you are seeing and hearing,” Kramer wrote.
“The slide in question was created by a plant employee to try to explain what is acceptable to wear in the workplace,” he explained. “The slide was not approved or distributed by Goodyear Corporate or anyone outside of that facility. I deeply regret the impression it has created and want to clarify Goodyear’s position.”
“First, to be clear, Goodyear does not endorse any political organization, party or candidate,” Goodyear’s top executive continued. “We have a longstanding corporate policy that asks associates to refrain from workplace expressions in support of any candidate or political party.”
“Second, Goodyear strongly supports our law enforcement partners and deeply appreciates all they do to put their lives on the line each and every day for our communities,” he wrote. “We have proudly supplied tires to police and fire personnel for more than 100 years and that relationship is foundational to our company.”
“We have clarified our policy to make it clear associates can express support for law enforcement through apparel at Goodyear facilities,” Kramer wrote, reversing the edict laid out in both the leaked slide and the leaked audio.
On Wednesday, Goodyear denied that the leaked training slide was a part of company-sponsored training in a statement posted to social media on Wednesday in response to backlash.
But a recording of the training session at the Topeka plant that was leaked on Wednesday night painted a very different picture from Goodyear’s official statement.
“Some people may wish to express their views on social justice or inequity or equity issues such as black lives matter or LGBTQ pride on their face coverings, shirts or wristbands. That will be deemed approved because it applies with a zero-tolerance stance,” the man lectured employees in the recording. “However if any associate wears all, blue, or white lives matter shirts or face coverings then that will be not appropriate.”
The supervisor clarified that the guidelines were rules.
“Let’s try and comply with these so that way everybody feels good in this factory,” he continued in the leaded audio. “I want to make sure guys, think about what we do in this factory, right? We all work together to make tires. That’s what we do. That’s what we get paid to do. So, let’s continue to do that and do the right thing and keep this place what it has always been, a good place to work.”
CONTROVERSIAL GOODYEAR AUDIO: New audio reveals why Topeka Goodyear said All Lives Matter, Blue Lives Matter and MAGA attire are unacceptable. pic.twitter.com/5MNo2EAH3w
— NBC15 News (@nbc15_madison) August 20, 2020
The slide that was initially shared to social media by an employee earlier in the week showed lists of what is, and what is not, considered acceptable messaging under the Goodyear “zero tolerance” policy, WIBW reported.
The list of “Acceptable” included “Black Lives Matter” and “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Pride (LGBT).”
The list of “Unacceptable” included “Blue Lives Matter,” “All Lives Matter,” “MAGA Attire,” and “Political Affiliated Slogans or Materials,” WIBW reported.
The employee who posted the slide said that it was shared during diversity training at Goodyear’s Topeka plant, but that it originated in the company’s headquarters in Akron, Ohio.
“If someone wants to wear a BLM shirt in here, then cool. I’m not going to get offended about it,” the employee told WIBW. “But at the same time, if someone’s not going to be able to wear something that is politically-based, even in the farthest stretch of the imagination, that’s discriminatory.”
The employee asked to remain anonymous out of fear they would be terminated for releasing the controversial corporate materials to the public.
Goodyear sent a statement to The Police Tribune on Tuesday night that defended the training materials and did nothing to quell the rising outrage as images of the company’s “zero tolerance” policy went viral.
“Goodyear is committed to fostering an inclusive and respectful workplace where all of our associates can do their best in a spirit of teamwork,” Goodyear spokeswoman Melissa Monaco wrote in an email.
“As part of this commitment, we do allow our associates to express their support on racial injustice and other equity issues but ask that they refrain from workplace expressions, verbal or otherwise, in support of political campaigning for any candidate or political party as well as other similar forms of advocacy that fall outside the scope of equity issues,” Monaco wrote.
Goodyear’s stance did not address that Black Lives Matter is a political organization and pushes for changes which are often unrelated to equity issues, including defunding law enforcement.
“As a supplier of tires to police, fire, and other law enforcement departments across the U.S., Goodyear remains steadfastly in support of federal, state and local law enforcement,” the Goodyear statement continued. “We value our partnerships with law enforcement around the country, appreciate the work they do on behalf of our shared communities, and look forward to continuing those relationships for years to come.”
Then the tire company posted the statement to add “context” in response to the backlash on social media.
“First, the visual in question was not created or distributed by Goodyear corporate, nor was it part of a diversity training class,” Goodyear clarified.
However, they did not immediately explain who created the materials, who distributed them, or why they were shown to employees at the Topeka plant.
The company’s statement then went on to claim that Goodyear does in fact support law enforcement despite the obvious messages to the contrary in the “zero tolerance” policy.
“Goodyear has always wholeheartedly supported both equality and law enforcement and will continue to do so,” the statement read. “These are not mutually exclusive.”
Black Lives Matter is actively pushing to defund police and has demonstrated an anti-police stance, not simple anti-police brutality.
“We have heard from some of you that [you] believe Goodyear is anti-police after reacting to the visual,” the company continued. “Nothing could be further from the truth, and we have the utmost appreciation for the work police do on behalf of our shared communities. This can’t be said strongly enough.”
But the company did not walk back its ban on “Blue Lives Matter” until after the mounting wave of viral anti-Goodyear sentiment started to affect its stock price.
President Donald Trump also called for a boycott of the tire company because the policy banned MAGA gear.
The company has not walked back the ban on political attire.