Despite aggressive campaigns last year in 10 major cities, technicians at only a handful of car dealerships around the country have voted for union membership.
The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers launched membership drives at auto dealerships in Baltimore; Boston; Columbus, Ohio; Cincinnati; Houston; Orlando, Fla.; Los Angeles; Las Vegas; Portland, Ore; and Seattle, according to attorneys representing the dealers.
No show in Orlando
``The union got one dealership interested in Cincinnati, one or two in Houston and one in Las Vegas,'' said Jim Hendricks, a partner with the national labor law firm Fisher & Phillips in Chicago. ``In Orlando, they could not get anyone to show up for their meetings.''
Boysen Anderson, automotive director for the union, which is in Upper Marlboro, Md., said response to the campaigns has been positive. But he refused to disclose specific results.
Mr. Anderson said the Machinists union represents 40,000 technicians nationally, including dealership technicians and mechanics who work for fleets.
The Machinists have promoted union membership with brochures, fliers and mobile billboards that say: ``Tell your dealer to torque off.''
Mr. Anderson said technicians should be getting more raises.
Local car dealer associations countered the campaigns with educational videotapes and meetings with dealership employees.
The tapes, which are designed to present the downside of union membership, included interviews with mechanics who are sour on union experience.
A video developed for Las Vegas dealers made the case that unions:
* Make promises they sometimes can't deliver, including higher wages, better working conditions and improved benefits.
* Hurt relationships between technicians and dealership management.
* Give techs less flexibility to negotiate better wages based on individual merit.
* Often result in lower wages. The techs featured on the video said their annual pay dropped $10,000 to $15,000.
Perhaps the strongest argument dealerships are making against unionization is pay. Most technicians are paid in flat-rate hours-a flat time per job that is published in a manual.
Mechanics often can beat book time, getting paid for more hours than they worked.