A dispute over a new membership agreement resulted in half of the Automotive Service Association's state organizations being disaffiliated from the national group.
The 23 state associations had until Nov. 16 to sign a new affiliate membership agreement or be disaffiliated Jan. 1. A dozen refused to sign; they said the agreement gives the national organization total power over the state groups.
The Georgia affiliate, which had refused to sign, had a change of heart. The national association received Georgia's signed agreement on Jan. 15, said association spokesman Ken Roberts.
Walter Trapp, who represents 13,000 mechanical and collision repair member businesses as president and chief staff executive of the trade association, agrees with the affiliates that the dispute is about power.
He accuses the former affiliates of trying to usurp power that the national association's bylaws give to its board of directors.
'The affiliates run their businesses within their states, and they want to run the national association, too,' Trapp said. 'The by-laws say that the board runs (the national association).'
The Automotive Service Association, headquartered in Bedford, Texas, oversees benefits programs such as disability insurance, garage keepers' liability, credit card processing and investment services for its members.
Bud Merwin led the group until his retirement Dec. 31.
The disaffiliated groups and the Illinois collision repair group have started a new organization called Automotive Service Professionals.
Jim Bastone, owner of Bastone Auto Service in Pittsburgh, and former president of the Automotive Service Association's Pennsylvania affiliate, said that organization's new agreement is unacceptable. He said the national group has refused to negotiate the terms of the agreement with the disaffiliated units.
'Their agenda is destructive to the industry,' said Bastone, who is president of the Pennsylvania chapter of the Automotive Service Professionals. 'Why else would they not negotiate with one half of the membership?'
January's dispute is not the first for the Automotive Service Association. In August 1997, the national association's Illinois chapter was disaffiliated. The national body signed up a group called Automotive Service Association Illinois - Mechanical in May 1998.
Trapp said the association did not solicit participation from its affiliates but pointed out that the association's bylaws do not require it. The agreement was approved by the national association's elected board of directors.
Dennis Liphardt, president of the Michigan chapter of the newly formed group and former president of the Automotive Service Association's Michigan affiliate, said the new agreement contains several objectionable clauses.
For instance, the new agreement forbids the state groups from affiliating with any organization that maintains positions inconsistent with the national association.
That presents a problem for the former Michigan affiliate, which also was a member of the Automotive Recyclers of Michigan. The recyclers group supports the use of recycled airbags in repairing vehicles in which the airbag has been deployed during an accident.
The Automotive Service Association does not support the use of recycled airbags.
Also objectionable to the former affiliates is that the new agreement requires them to send copies of their official communications to the national association and that they submit to an annual audit.
EFFECT ON MEMBERS
Also at issue is how the split affects membership.
The 12 disaffiliated state associations represent 40 to 50 percent of the national association's 60,000 individual members.
The old affiliation agreement required that its members be members of both the national and state associations. Under the new structure, service professionals can join either the national association or the state association or both.
However, under the new agreement individual shop owners in those states are still members of the national organization and will continue to be unless they choose not to renew when their current memberships expire, Trapp said.
Liphardt said his organization polled its membership and found that 93 percent said they would join only the state association.
Bastone said he feels positive about the new Automotive Service Professionals organization and will not become a member of the Automotive Service Association's national organization unless there is a change in leadership.
He said: 'Automotive Service Professionals' goal is member driven; Automotive Service Association lost that.'