|It's their seventh week on strike, and so far technicians and service writers at BMW of Mountain View have had no luck getting corporate owner AutoNation to budge in negotiations.
Two weeks ago, AutoNation actually offered the AFL-CIO-represented workers less, not more, than what the auto dealer giant had offered before the strike began, according to union leader and shop foreman Gary Jones. Both parties will once again address the situation at a meeting scheduled for this week.
Whatever happens, workers at other union dealerships owned by AutoNation are waiting to see what kind of deal the workers get, with one local dealership contacting the Voice for the latest details. The prospect that one union may succeed, setting an example for others in the 300-plus dealership chain, may be why AutoNation is trying to wait the workers out. But Jones says he doesn't believe other shops are as strong in union organizing.
Representatives of AutoNation did not return calls seeking comment.
The strike started after AutoNation sought significant cuts to health benefits and vacation time, and wanted the technicians to work at a flat rate. Workers say a flat rate would lead to shoddy and rushed work, and would require them to work longer hours for the same pay. They voted 66-0 to go on strike.
A few of the workers could not wait out the strike and have moved on to other jobs. If AutoNation succeeds, Jones says, many more good technicians will be leaving for independent shops.
Work has continued in the dealer's service area, performed by a few employees who seem to be rotating in from other dealers in the state, Jones said. Meanwhile, the strikers are still trying to discourage customers from crossing the picket line for cars, parts or repairs.
Crimes linked to strike
While the dispute continues to simmer, police have reported 10 incidents at the Mountain View dealership since the strike began, including two cases of physical conflict and five felony vandalism cases that cost the dealership thousands of dollars.
No one has been arrested and police have no suspects.
In one case, police said, a man driving by the picket line shouted at the workers, provoking them to throw objects and spit on his car, causing minor damage. The man was not able to pick out the suspects in a line-up.
In another case a potential customer came onto the lot and alleged that a conflict with the strikers escalated to the point that one of them punched him, police said. Allegations from both sides saying that the other took the first swing were never proved, and no one was arrested.
Also, a manager at the dealer has claimed that he was followed in his car by some of the strikers and sent thinly veiled threats by cell phone text message.
Among the felony vandalism cases, three involved new convertible tops being ripped. On another occasion, four tires were slashed on four different cars. In the fifth case, a roll-up door in the service bay was kicked in, causing $700 in damages.
Union leaders said they had no knowledge of the vandalism, and wondered if at least a few of the cases were caused by dealership management trying to make them look bad.
Police say it is more likely the damage was caused by a few of the striking workers.
"My guess would be that the majority are peaceful and wouldn't do anything wrong," said police spokesperson Liz Wylie. "But one or two bad seeds can ruin it for everybody."
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