For the past month, residents of Libertyville, Illinois, or anyone driving up Milwaukee Avenue in Libertyville, have been struck by an unusual sight. In front of a few car dealerships, including Napleton Cadillac, workers are on strike. The strike has been going on for a relatively long time.
When Erwin Weil owned the Cadillac dealership in this Northern Chicago suburb, he was quoted as saying, “You get what you pay for” about the ads that he appeared in. In the ad, Weil said, “I’ll make it worth your Weil.”
Erwin Weil was true to both those quotes not only when it came to selling cars, but also when it came to how to treat his employees. He was fair, honorable, and gave his workers benefits that kept them working for him for decades. Among his employees were not just certified GM mechanics, but some of the best in the nation — award winning mechanics. He provided a 401K benefit and contributed money to workers’ plans. He provided five weeks of vacation to workers who had been with him for over 20 years. He provided a 40-hour work week.
But mostly? He treated his workers with respect. They saw no need to unionize, because their employer was honest and fair. They felt valued, and in turn, they worked hard for Weil Cadillac.
Isn’t that what responsible corporations do? They treat their employees fairly so that they will get the best back from those employees. Lately, it seems as if greedy corporate moguls are out to squeeze every dollar, every cent, from wherever they can. The workers are making a living wage? Cut wages! The workers have a decent retirement plan? Cut the plan! The workers have a 40-hour week? Cut hours!
So while America is losing workers who want to be in trades like the fields of auto mechanics, plumbing, and other necessary businesses, companies like the Napleton Auto Group would seem to be making those trades less attractive by cutting not only wages and benefits, but also the dignity of those doing the work.
America was built by workers. While those who own the companies and factories that make our products are in the news and live luxurious lifestyles, those who actually provide the services and make the products have been dependent on the American ideal that’s said, “Work hard and be productive and you will be rewarded.” It’s in part because workers worked hard but were not fairly rewarded that unions came into being. Unions provide power to the workers that one individual worker, or even a small group of workers, cannot have. There is, after all, strength in numbers.
That is clearly seen in the Napleton Cadillac story. For decades, Erwin Weil treated his workers fairly. But when he retired and sold the dealership to Bill and Paul Napleton, it seems that all changed. Making even more money than the dealership previously made appeared to be the order of business, and according to the striking mechanics, the respectful treatment of workers was one of the standards that didn’t make the cut with the new owners and what the mechanics believe is their “profit above all” ethic.
In what seems to be an especially despicable act, it’s alleged that the owners of the Cadillac dealership took the mechanics’ tools during the strike and left those tools outside in the rain. The striking mechanics own their own tools, and some of their tool collections are worth more than a year’s salary — as much as $100,000. When one of the larger toolboxes sank into the asphalt, it couldn’t be moved, and according to the striking mechanics, the tools inside were ruined from exposure to water during the heavy rain. There is an article as well as photos on Jalopnik about this.
The big question for readers to ponder is this: Do you believe that a worker should be treated fairly and with dignity? Encyclopedia.com says that the phrase “A labourer is worth of his hire” or in plain English, someone should be properly recompensed for effort, is originally of biblical origin.
You be the judge of the mechanics you want working on your car — the scabs who crossed the picket line and who (according to the striking mechanics) may or may not be GM certified, or the truly experienced mechanics who are on strike for a fair contract.
Note: The general manager of the Libertyville Napleton Cadillac, Dominic Florio, was contacted and offered the chance to comment on the article before publication. He refused the offer and said, “No comment.”