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A federal judge in Indiana has halted Cooper Tire & Rubber Co.’s $1.2 billion sale of its automotive parts business until an arbitrator hears issues raised in a lawsuit filed by a union. The United Steelworkers of America said in a September lawsuit that its labor contract gives it the right to negotiate with potential buyers before the division is sold. On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Theresa Springmann ordered an arbitrator to hear the union’s grievances and said it should be done quickly. Debra Crow, a spokeswoman for Findlay, Ohio-based Cooper Tire, said the company plans to appeal. She said the sales agreement maintained existing union arrangements and contractual agreements. The Cypress Group, a New York-based equity group, and Goldman Sachs Capital Partners joined to buy Cooper-Standard Automotive, based in Novi, Mich. The deal was announced in September. The Steelworkers union represents about 1,500 workers at four plants: two in Bowling Green and one each in Auburn, Ind., and El Dorado, Ark. The Pittsburgh-based union said in its lawsuit that a contract between Cooper and the steelworkers requires that the company can only sell its four plants to owners that reach labor contract agreements before the deal is finalized. Cooper hoped to finalize the deal by the end of the year. Cooper’s automotive unit made up nearly half of its overall sales last year. Shares of Cooper rose 28 cents to close at $20.19 Thursday on the New York Stock Exchange. Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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