Sales employees of a Montreal dealership have joined a large labor union. But the organizing effort does not appear to signal an immediate trend in Canada or the United States.
Five of the eight salespeople at Brossard Honda agreed to join the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America
Under Canadian law, majority approval organizes the entire sales force without the need for an election, says union spokesman Chantal Larose.
The carpenters' union hopes to negotiate a contract with the dealership by year end, Larose says. Salespeople at 15 other Quebec dealerships have expressed interest in joining the union, she says.
The union has 550,000 members in the United States and Canada.
The National Automobile Dealers Association says it is unaware of any union-represented salespeople in the United States.
Several salespeople at Brossard Honda contacted the union, complaining primarily of long hours, Larose says. Sixty-hour workweeks are typical at the dealership, she adds.
The dealership's owner, Norman Hebert Jr., is president of the Montreal Automobile Dealers Corp., which represents Montreal-area dealers.
Diane Belair, the dealer association's vice president, says she does not anticipate a successful campaign to organize salespeople at other dealerships.
"Working conditions are very good," she says.
Labor lawyer Robert Bekken of Irvine, Calif., says efforts to organize auto salespeople are rare and generally unsuccessful. Unions have had greater success organizing parts counter employees and technicians at U.S. dealership, he says.
Bekken advises dealership executives about organizing campaigns.
He says it is harder to organize salespeople because their turnover is high and their pay generally is based on commissions. The most successful and competitive salespeople often balk at joining unions, he says.
"A union usually tries to equalize earnings, minimizing the differences in pay," Bekken says. "The ones who are top producers do not want to be marginalized."