Strike settled at Duluth auto dealerships
After two months, the strike is over for mechanics at six car dealerships in the Miller Hill Mall area. "It's over, they're coming back," said Peter Kolar, co-owner of the Kolar Automotive Group, among the dealers struck. "We had a meeting yester...
After two months, the strike is over for mechanics at six car dealerships in the Miller Hill Mall area.
"It's over, they're coming back," said Peter Kolar, co-owner of the Kolar Automotive Group, among the dealers struck. "We had a meeting yesterday (Monday), and we came to terms."
Most should be back on the job today, he said.
The first of 60 mechanics and parts employees represented by United Auto Workers Local 241 walked off the job June 15 at Kolar Toyota/Scion and Kolar Hyundai in Hermantown after contract talks through a federal mediator broke down.
During the three weeks that followed, the strikers were joined by their counterparts at Krenzen Auto Mall and Krenzen Honda in Duluth, then Duluth Dodge and Kolar Chevrolet in Hermantown. For two months, striking workers could be seen sitting outside those dealerships with their strike signs on most days.
During the strike, some dealers said they were continuing to service vehicles. But union president Del Soiney and other mechanics said last month that the dealerships were without the certified staff to do servicing beyond oil changes, tire rotations and other basic maintenance.
Their four-year contract with the Duluth Automobile Dealers Association had expired April 30 and union members had rejected the dealers' offer and a revised offer that came in July.
The wage hike offered in a new four-year contract -- 2.8 percent the first year and 2.3 percent in years two, three and four -- wasn't a problem.
Who would pay for expected increases in employees' health care premiums the first two years of the contract was an issue. But the big sticking point was proposed changes to contract language regarding the time allowed to do repairs. The mechanics said the changes could result in insufficient time to do jobs properly.
"There was a lot of misinformation out there, and that was the hard part," Kolar said. "We never refused to get to the table, not once. We were glad they asked us back to the table. We got it resolved."
He said wording was changed in the contract and adjustments made.
"It was all taken care of," Kolar said.
Union president Del Soiney couldn't be reached for comment Tuesday. But Kolar said having the contract settled is "wonderful."
"We're just happy to have everybody back and working together," he said.