RWDSU International
Strauss Discount Auto Workers Vote to Authorize Strike

March 30, 2009

Workers from Strauss Auto Discount stores (members of RWDSU Local 108) late Sunday overwhelmingly approved a vote authorizing a strike against the retailer.  The strike vote was taken after RWDSU Local 108 members rejected the retailer’s final contract offer which demanded major economic concessions from workers with no management sacrifices.  Last week Local 108 leaders and workers joined labor and elected leaders in a rally to urge the giant retailer to do what is necessary to negotiate a fair, equitable and responsible labor contract.  The current contract expired in October 2008, and Strauss Discount Auto’s executives have refused to offer a contract that provides for its loyal and dedicated workforce, while simultaneously rewarding management with hefty severance packages.

Presenting their “final offer” last week to union President Charles Hall Jr. and the negotiating committee of RWDSU Local 108, executives from Strauss Discount Auto (owned by Autobacs Strauss Inc.) proposed costly shifts in health care plans, elimination of pension plans and seniority rights, and no pay increases while management provides themselves with severance packages. 

Charles Hall, Jr. President of RWDSU Local 108 said, “Our members know the value of having a job in today’s tough economy, and we are willing to share in the sacrifices.  However, we cannot allow employers to think because of the current economic situation that they can exploit workers. When times are tough, everyone needs to share in the sacrifice, but Strauss executives are rewarding themselves with hefty severance packages.  This is highly unacceptable and we will fight for a fair contract and are prepared to strike if that is what it takes to get economic justice for our members.”  President Hall urged Strauss executives to "move away from the tired old mean-spirited tactics of past talks" and work with the union to reach a contract.

“The economic crisis has already taken too much of a toll on hard working Americans while those at the top of the economic ladder have continued to enrich themselves – and the management of Strauss Discount Auto stores is no different,” said Stuart Appelbaum, President of the 100,000 member Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU). “While asking for significant sacrifices from their employees, the upper management has been rewarding themselves with severance packages. This fight isn’t simply about 500 workers and their families in New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. This fight is about demanding that business leaders make responsible business decisions and make sacrifices like every working family in the country.”

"The contract proposals offered from the Strauss Company to date are some of the most aggressive and far reaching anti-worker proposals I’ve been informed of in my 30 year involvement with organized labor" said New Jersey AFL-CIO President Charles Wowkanech. "This type of anti-worker behavior is an assault on Strauss employees and the full strength of our organization will be utilized in support of them."

Ismael Ramos, an employee of Strauss Discount Auto and a proud member of Local 108 for 24 years said “I am an auto technician and I live with my wife and 2 kids in Jersey City.  My job has helped make it possible for me to raise my family, own my home and plan for the future.  If Straus gets what they want, that may all disappear.  People like me have worked hard for Strauss for many years and made it the successful company they are today.  We deserve better, and will fight for fairness.”

Strauss Discount Auto has 88 stores throughout New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania.  A strike will impact over 500 mechanics and sales staff workers.

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RWDSU Local 108, UFCW/CTC CLC | 1576 Springfield Avenue Maplewood, NJ 07040 | Phone: 973-762-7224