August 17 marked the second month of strike for machinists affiliated with International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Local 1484 at Mercedes Benz of San Diego. For two months the workers have been striking against unfair labor practices, management’s stubbornness in negotiations, and the wrongful termination of 20 employees as a retaliation for the strike.
Liberation News spoke with employees during a press conference held on Aug. 17, to get their perspective on the past two months of negotiations. Pedro Gomez, the Shop Steward, advocated for his fellow workers: “Our first demand is that they reinstate the 20 terminated people … [management] said that they’re not willing to entertain that at all.”
Despite the deadlock in negotiations, morale was high and cracks are starting to form in the dealership itself. In an attempt to replace the unionized workers, the dealership has been hiring “uncertified and unqualified people” according to Gomez. The lack of experience in the replacement workers have led to delays in repair times for customers with repairs for higher end models being delayed for months.
Community support has been keeping the morale of the union up for the past two months. Horns from passerby vehicles, UPS trucks and shipping truckers could be heard all around in support of the union. This has led to the dealership closing their doors despite lacking air-conditioning to drown out the noise of support.
Support has even come from communities outside of San Diego. Liberation News spoke with one such supporter, Ralph Lopez, from Teamsters Local 1932 in San Bernardino. When asked why he drove two hours to San Diego, Lopez responded with “from coast to coast we will always support our union brothers and sisters.” This sentiment was reinforced by Jaime Vasquez, the Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters Local Union 542 in San Diego: “We in the unions have a saying, ‘a harm to one is a harm to all,’ and we live by that concept.”
Amidst the scorching heat of the summer and the deadlock negotiations, the workers are still fighting strong. The strong sense of unity and solidarity displayed on the picket line doesn’t seem to be abating any time soon. Besides fighting for their own rights, there is a strong sentiment among the workers that they are fighting for the impact of future workplace organizing at the nearby dealerships and the industry as a whole.