Workers rallied outside of the Bridgestone-Firestone tire plant in Des Moines today as union and corporate negotiators approach a deadline to reach a new labor contract.

The United Steelworkers Union represents around 950 out of the 1300 employees at the factory that makes tires for tractors and other agricultural equipment. Bill Campbell, a vice president of the local union, said Bridgestone’s proposal is far from what the union is demanding on wages, health care and retirement.

“Things can happen very quickly. Hopefully, they do,” he said. “The goal is not to go on strike, for everybody, it’s to get a fair contract, but we are ready to go if need be.”

The current contract expires tonight at 11. Campbell said work at the plant could continue without a new contract if negotiations are going well. Otherwise, union negotiators could call for a strike or the company could lock out its employees.

It was nearly a year ago that John Deere workers across several states went on a month-long strike. Campbell believes Bridgestone workers still have leverage.

“John Deere is different from Bridgestone-Firestone. They did a good thing and got what they needed up there,” Campbell said, “and hopefully we can do this without having to do what they had to do.”

About 4000 union members at facilities in Des Moines, Arkansas, Illinois, Tennessee and Ohio are covered by the contract.

(By Grant Gerlock,  Iowa Public Radio)