|After eight weeks of picketing along El Camino Real with no pay, striking service writers and mechanics at BMW of Mountain View have come to an agreement with owner AutoNation.
The workers were forced to make a compromise when an overwhelming number of replacement workers began crossing the picket line to take the union jobs. The replacement workers will stay, but many who stood faithfully on the picket line will have to go -- a total of 22 mechanics and three service writers.
Needless to say, many of the union workers were infuriated by the situation.
"I walked on the sidewalk for eight weeks without a paycheck and I got a contract for those guys inside," said mechanic Mike Romano.
The new contract was voted in last Tuesday by a slim margin among the 66 workers, with some wanting to continue the strike and hold out for a better deal. But shop foreman Gary Jones said he and others "didn't have the heart" to see more jobs lost to the replacement workers, who the workers often refer to as "strike-breakers" or "scabs."
The contract is a major improvement on what AutoNation had been offering previously, Jones said.
"If they would have offered us this deal in the first place maybe we wouldn't have had to go through all this," he said.
While there may be slight raises for top level mechanics, the new contract brings substantial increases in health care costs, cuts to holidays and sick days, and a controversial flat rate pay system where mechanics are paid per assignment. The system already exists at all the rest of AutoNation's 300 dealerships nationwide.
Workers had voted 66-0 to go in strike, partly to preserve the dealership's hourly pay system which they said allows mechanics to take the time to do quality work.
"This was the last of the hourly shops, we were the final ones to hold out," Romano said. "This was Custer's last stand."
Flat rate also has been blamed for causing tension among mechanics when it comes to deciding who gets assignments when work is slow. When there is no work, the company doesn't have to pay the mechanics.
Two weekends ago, union negotiators and AutoNation representatives spent 16 hours coming up with the contract, starting at 1:30 p.m. Saturday and not taking a break until it was all over at 8 a.m. Sunday. Union members ratified the deal the following Tuesday.
On Aug. 4 the workers will return to the dealership, where there likely will be tension between union men and those who crossed the picket line.
"I have to work there with I don't know how many scabs," Romano said. "Now they will be a part of the union."
There is also some anxiety about who will assign work in the new flat rate shop between the strike-breakers and loyal union workers. Unless a good system exists for distributing the work fairly, Romano said, mechanics might stay late into the evening or arrive early in the morning to catch work that comes in after hours.
Workers displaced by the strike-breakers may get jobs at other dealerships, said Jones, but it is uncertain. Jones and Romano blamed the situation on changes to federal labor law during the Reagan era.
"It doesn't seem fair to me that someone can cross the line and get a job and somebody with a lot of seniority is out on the street," Jones said. "There is something wrong with that picture."
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