Krenzen auto mechanics go on strikeFourteen mechanics and parts employees at the Krenzen car dealership in Duluth walked off the job Monday morning and began striking after employers failed to return to the bargaining table. But co-owner Howie Krenzen said Monday afternoon that vehicle servicing was continuing.
By: Candace Renalls, Duluth News Tribune
Fourteen mechanics and parts employees at the Krenzen car dealership in Duluth walked off the job Monday morning and began striking after employers failed to return to the bargaining table.
The four-year contract between United Auto Workers Local 241 and Krenzen and three Hermantown dealerships expired April 31. Subsequent talks through a federal mediator broke down in May.
The walkout at Krenzen followed a similar walkout of 17 mechanics and parts workers at Kolar Toyota on June 15. Striking mechanics now are picketing both sites.
About 30 mechanics and parts workers who are also covered by the contract remain on the job at Duluth Dodge and Kolar Chevrolet. Those dealerships, as well as Krenzen and Kolar Toyota, are represented by the Duluth Automobile Dealers Association in the contract negotiations.
“If we don’t get them back to the bargaining table, others will walk out,” said David Friske, a Krenzen mechanic who was picketing outside the dealership on Monday afternoon.
The 2.5 percent a year wage hike offered isn’t the issue, according to Alex Freeman, a striking master mechanic at Kolar Toyota. Higher employee contributions to health insurance and employees being asked to pay a surcharge for their underfunded pension fund are issues, he and union president Del Soiney say.
But the biggest sticking point is that dealerships want to reduce the times mechanics have to do repairs, veering away from industry guidelines used for years, according to the strikers.
“They want to eliminate wording in the contract so they can charge whatever they want and pay us whatever they want,” Freeman said.
Kevin Bushe, a mechanic and union steward at Krenzen, summed it up this way: “They’re not giving mechanics enough time to do the work. That’s the main deal.”
According to Soiney, the Kolar Automotive Group has already changed those times. So the UAW filed an unfair labor practice charge against them with the National Labor Relations Board in Minneapolis, he said.
David Solon, general manager of Kolar Toyota, declined to discuss the negotiations with the media. He said the dealership is continuing to service cars as much as possible.
Over at Krenzen, Friske said the mechanics made sure they didn’t start a repair Monday they couldn’t finish before their 10:30 a.m. walkout.
“We don’t want to make our customers mad,” he said. “We want them to come back. We didn’t want to leave people stranded. Our gripe is not with them, it is with the dealership.”
After all the union mechanics walked out of Krenzen, some cars remained in the parking lot unserviced, Friske said. And at least one customer was called at 11 a.m. and asked to pick up his car without all the repairs done.
But co-owner Howie Krenzen said Monday afternoon that vehicle servicing was continuing.
“We still have plenty,” he said. “We have service advisers and management that have all the knowledge and capability to service cars.”
And since Kolar Toyota mechanics walked out 10 days earlier, they expected their mechanics also would walk out eventually, he said.