Bridgestone-Firestone tractor tire plant in Des Moines announces layoffs

Des Moines, IA – As farmers grapple with the largest fall in farm income in two decades, another agricultural industrial company in Iowa is facing workforce reductions. Bridgestone-Firestone’s Des Moines plant, which produces most of the company’s tractor tires, confirmed that it would be cutting jobs. While the company did not disclose the exact number of layoffs, Keenan Bell, president of the United Steelworkers Union 310L, estimates that it affects all employees with two or fewer years of seniority. Approximately 118 workers fall into that category out of the plant’s 900 employees. This marks the first layoff at the Des Moines plant since 1990. The reduction in workforce is likely connected to the agricultural economy slowing down, impacting tire sales.

The layoffs at the Des Moines plant are due to demand constraints in the agricultural tire sector. Bridgestone-Firestone aims to minimize the impact on its employees and has communicated directly with them. The local United Steelworkers leadership has been notified of the layoffs. As farmers face a second year of falling earnings, the U.S. Department of Agriculture forecasts a decline in farming net income for 2024. Paolo Ferrari, executive chair of Bridgestone Americas Inc., mentioned that the commercial tire business, including truck and tractor tires, saw a 17% to 18% drop in sales in 2023. Other buyers of Bridgestone-Firestone tires, such as Deere rival Case IH and construction equipment manufacturer Caterpillar, have also reduced their purchasing. The union is assisting affected workers in registering and applying for unemployment benefits, with some recall rights should Bridgestone-Firestone resume hiring.

Bridgestone-Firestone has had manufacturing operations in the Des Moines area since 1945. The plant not only produces tractor tires but also manufactures tires for forestry and off-road equipment. Despite the challenges posed by the agricultural economy, the company remains committed to its long-standing presence in the region. Second- and third-generation workers continue to be employed at the Des Moines facility, reflecting the plant’s historical significance and contribution to the local community.