As BMW has a reputation for excellent customer service, I had doubts about my theory. After several weekends of seeing these people walking with signs, I decided to stop and investigate further.
It turns out that the picketing is part of a labor action against BMW of North America. The beef centers around a parts distribution warehouse in Ontario Ca and the teamsters local which represents 68 workers at the plant.
The workers were recently notified that their contract, which expires at the end of August, won't be renewed. The company's plan is to contract out the operation of the warehouse to a third party, which will hire non-union employees and pay them below a living wage. Apparently, the issue isn't about contract negotiations or wage and benefit concessions. The company is not talking about those matters. The only thing BMW is willing to discuss is severance packages.
Needless to say, the Teamsters aren't taking this laying down.
Protests have been staged at BMW dealerships around the south-land and at the attorney's office who is representing BMW of North America. Further actions are planned.
Adding fuel to the fire is the fact that the plant has received several awards of excellence from BMW, citing efficiency and several top ranked employees are assigned to the Ontario warehouse. The fact that BMW received a 3.6 billion dollar bail-out loan several years ago and made nearly 5 billion last year aren't helping cool the flames either.
I'm sure that there are some who have little sympathy for the teamsters, even in this battle. Here's why I think this is important. Many of us ignore these kinds of issues until it is our ox's turn to get gored. Then we raise hell about the issue as it affects us. Many of us have made concessions regarding our wages and hours - we recognize that these are challenging times and have made adjustments accordingly. May of us have lost our jobs due to companies going bust or our agencies losing funding.
That is not the case here. BMW is making money, the shareholders are making money and the plant is healthy and viable. BMW is attempting to capitalize on the current economic situation and the groundswell of anti-union sentiment that is prevalent and eliminate the collective bargaining process for the employees.
When I graduated from high school, there were options for people who did not wish to go to college or trade school. They could go into the trades or work at several manufacturing plants in the area. That is no longer an option for most. Most of the manufacturing jobs have gone away - the products are made overseas. The trades are now done by immigrant labor, many of whom are here illegally.
The United States is different in that we have always left enough prosperity for the working and middle class. That difference is fading away for most.
Where is it going to stop? Twenty years from now, are the Chinese going to have missionary trips to this country and build us garage door houses? I wonder.
Good luck to the folks over at the Ontario BMW warehouse. I hope that BMWNA changes their mind. Judging from the public statements made by BMW, I fear that it is a losing battle.
Thanks for reading,