There's no debating that the Web site www.flatratetech.com comes down solidly in the camp of organizing automotive service technicians.
Page after page on the site, the benefits of belonging to a union-specifically the International Association of Machinist and Aerospace Workers (IAM)-are unabashedly spelled out.
In the ``Get Your Shop Organized'' section, the site warns that ``when a shop is voting to bring a union into their dealership, the owner or their manager will almost always try to talk you out of voting the union into your shop. He may tell you that he will give you what the IAM will give you, then if he succeeds in making the shop believe his story, and they vote negatively for union, they have to wait one year to be able to vote for union again.
``After they vote the union out, nothing is done that he said would be done and many times, those techs are `let go' before they get any of the promised benefits.''
The site-founded by Ford master technician Mark Ward-urges techs to get in writing from a manager or dealer their promises to offer the same benefits as the IAM. ``That is when you'll know which way to vote. That will tell the tale,'' it added.
Among other headings the Web site provides for more information are: ``the Right to Organize Act''; employer violations of federal law; ``examples of your rights''; testimonials from technicians; the IAM's national pension plan and National IAM Benefit Trust Fund; health care issues; and vacation, holiday and sick time allowances in an IAM contract.
Under the ``training'' section, the site asks: ``How many times have you seen this happen? A technician needs one more class to fulfill his requirements or to get up to speed on a new product, and the manager tells him the shop is too busy to let him go. Or just refuses because he says it costs him too much money.''
Another ``big issue'' facing some car dealership technicians, the site continues, is that ``most dealers pay their technicians $50 per day for going to school. Some pay nothing! That all stops when you are represented by the IAM.''
The Web site also covers topics such as ``fair job distribution,'' job security and a ``guaranteed eight hours'' of work.
``How many days have you come to work, stayed all day and flagged two hours?'' it asks. ``This has been a big problem with Ford technicians since 1998,'' after the car maker undertook some cutbacks. ``You work all day on a job that doesn't pay what it should and guess what? You lose,'' it states.
``Or how about going to work and staying all day even when you only get one small job because that is the rule. Either way you would lose.
``Not with an IAM contract. You get a minimum eight hours for being back there eight hours,'' the site points out.
Flatratetech.com also spells out some of the financial benefits of IAM membership for techs, stating that ``wages are better for union workers, and this creates a higher standard of living allowing for better schools and public services. Also, unions help narrow the pay gap between races and sexes.'' (See accompanying chart).
In addition to better wages, the Web site cited 2003 U.S. Department of Labor statistics that union membership provides better health and pension coverage for a greater percentage of workers. In the health benefits category, it notes that while 51 percent of non-union workers receive it, 73 percent of union workers get health coverage. About 16 percent of non-union laborers receive pensions vs. 70 percent of unionized workers. The statistics indicate 66 percent of union workers receive disability compensation while 33 percent of their non-union counterparts don't.
The same story holds for life insurance benefits, where there's a 25-percent gap between the 78 percent of union laborers who receive them and the non-union members who do not get that coverage from their employers.
Mentioning that ``a union contract makes arbitrary, unfair discipline a thing of the past,'' the Web site also says that without a union contract, ``management can terminate employees `at will'-in other words, for just about any reason they want.''
The Web site includes a list of some automotive service-related companies where workers were recently organized by the IAM, such as: Northwest Valley Dodge in Elgin, Ill.; Napleton Auto Werks, Love Park, Ill.; C&S Truck Repair, Westmont, Ill.; Camp Chevrolet-Cadillac, Spokane, Wash.; Bill's Auto Repair in Chicago; Geweke Ford in Yuba City, Calif.; Mike Haggerty Volkswagen, Oak Lawn, Ill.; and Davis Toyota in Pittsburgh.