|Fighting the good fight (left to right): District 166 Organizer Javier Alamazan, Mercedes Auto Technicians Dean Catalano, Juan Cazorla and David Poppo.|
The IAM scored an important legal victory recently for workers at Mercedes of Orlando in Florida, who endured harassment, intimidation and even firings after they voted to unionize. The ruling from the National Labor Relations Board requires the dealership, which is owned by AutoNation, to reinstate five workers who were fired for their union activities, with full back pay.
Auto Tech Juan Cazorla was one of those fired and describes his two-year struggle to overcome the effects of losing his job. “This has ruined my life,” said Cazorla, who claims he was blackballed in the industry by AutoNation. “I’ve been raised to fight for what I believe in, and I still think I did the right thing. Who are they to try to destroy my life, and make it so I can’t find a job? I’m happy with the decision, it proves I was right, but they’ll never be able to give me back what I lost.”
Mercedes of Orlando has indicated it will appeal the decision, and not bring back the techs at this time. This is a normal tactic of the anti-union industry, further punishing the workers by dragging the process out as long as possible.
Cazorla is happy to see workers in other states starting to stand up for their rights. “It feels good that there are a lot of people who are standing up for their rights,” said Cazorla. “We have to stand together for the future.”
“We have a group of technicians at Mercedes that have remained solid,” says Southern Territory GVP Bob Martinez. “They have shown a great deal of dedication and bravery, not just for themselves, but because they care about their profession, and to help technicians regain their ability to make a good living.”
In addition to ordering reinstatement and full back pay for the fired workers, the NLRB ordered Mercedes of Orlando to bargain in good faith with the IAM.