Car dealers and technicians approved a three-year contract October 15 ending an 11-week strike at 61 St. Louis new-car dealerships.
The sticking point was dealerships' increasing tendency to hire entry-level mechanics to perform light repair and maintenance work. "Dealers have to be competitive," says Patrick Sanders, a labor attorney and spokesman for the dealers.
The contract with the International Association of Machinists allows dealers to expand responsibilities for mechanic "helpers" as long as they beef up health benefits.
Sanders says the new health plan requires no co-payments or employee contributions and will increase the dealerships' monthly health care cost per technician to $900 from $525 over the contract.
The dealers agreed to a separate contract with 450 technicians the International Brotherhood of Teamsters on October 12.