Teamsters protest Star Chrysler

A decision by the Chrysler Group, LLC has raised the ire of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters – and Star Chrysler in Queens Village has been feeling the burn.

After the Thursday, October 1 expiration of union contracts between the Teamsters and Chrysler to haul cars between the manufacturer and the dealerships, the company decided to reduce the number of unionized car haulers. The Teamsters claim that the replacement drivers have less experience and less of the proper equipment, and as a result, the new vehicles arrived damaged at the dealerships.

They want the dealerships to support the return of more experienced car haulers by signing a petition – an “open letter to” – addressed to the Chief Executive Officers of Chrysler and General Motors.

“Chrysler has decided since the bailout and partnership with FIAT to change the transportation model,” said Bayside native Fred Zuckerman, director of automobile transport industry for the Teamsters and president of Local 89 in Louisville, Kentucky. “The model they are using now is that they’ll hire anyone who has a truck.”

This challenge to Chrysler – and perhaps in the next few weeks General Motors, since their contract expires with the unionized car haulers on Friday, January 1 – comes at a time when the embattled dealerships had hoped to ride the momentum of Cash for Clunkers and sell cars without the help of government credits. According to the National Automobile Dealerships Association, car and truck sales inched up 7.3 percent in October to 427,325, compared to the 398,235 September figure. However, sales year-to-year are down 25.3 percent.

In an email statement, Chrysler said it had worked with its two long-standing haulaway carriers, Atlanta-based Allied System Holdings and Illinois-based Cassens Transport, “to reduce costs and transit time and improve customer satisfaction. As a consequence of this action, some jobs will be shifted from Teamster-represented workers to non-union workers at other companies.”

But the Teamsters have organized to help customers become more aware of the hidden damages to vehicles transported by the non-union members.

Zuckerman started a web site, www.carbuyersbeware.com, which has images taken in October of cars incorrectly strapped to car carriers that the Teamsters say can cause damage to tires, axles and cause steering problems, among other things.

“If the suspension or frames are damaged it can definitely cause some safety issues,” said Zuckerman. “We are not mad at the dealerships, they are going through their own problems, but we want consumers to be notified.”

Pete Zacharia, general manager at Star Chrysler, has been picketed by the Teamsters because he has not signed the letter to Chrysler about their decision to use non-union car haulers.

“A company mostly owned by the United Auto Workers allowed that to happened,” he said. “I’m not a decision maker for Chrysler,”

Back in Queens Village and frustrated by the loss of sales caused by the presence of the Teamsters picketers, who for four hours on two Saturdays in November stood outside of the Star Chrysler showroom and talked customers out of buying cars, Zacharia added that he didn’t believe that non-union meant unprofessional.

“If they can prove that the vehicles being moved are less safe, God bless them,” said Zacharia. “But I’m sure the company Chrysler hired is very well bonded and insured.”

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