By Stephen Von Sychowski
People's Voice July 1-31, 2010
On February 2, unionized workers at Hertz Car Rentals in Vancouver and at YVR airport began a legal strike which is now over four months long. At issue are the attempts of the U.S.-based company to rob employees of job security, by reserving the right to lay off full time workers and return them to work as part timers, without the benefits they have fought for and won over the course of more than three decades.
Claims by Hertz about the necessity to make changes out of financial necessity simply don't wash. Hertz is the largest car rental company in the world. They hold an extraordinarily lucrative contract with the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia to provide vehicles to their customers, which include all drivers in BC. They recently tabled an offer to purchase competitor Dollar-Thrifty for the tidy sum of $1.17 billion. Furthermore their latest earnings were extremely positive - $1.7 billion revenue during the most recent financial quarter.
No, this isn't about a company struggling to make a meager profit against greedy workers. Quite the opposite. Hertz workers, members of COPE Local 378, are merely fighting to keep the jobs they already have, in many cases for more than 20 years, with their current hours and benefits. Hertz has the dough, they just don't want to share it with the same hard working people who provided them with the very profits they now greedily horde. Hertz workers are picketing at YVR and at the company's downtown location, asking customers not to rent with Hertz until the dispute is resolved.
A small group of just over 50 workers striking for their jobs and their livelihood may sound like small potatoes in the grand scheme of things. Perhaps, but a lot more is at stake in this strike. That's because while Hertz has got away with their anti-worker campaign in non-union shops, they are now up against union workers in an airport of union-certified car rental agencies. The precedent set by this strike may affect the course of collective bargaining between the unions (COPE and the Teamsters) and employers (Avis, Dollar-Thrifty, National-Alamo, Budget) in the years to come.
The nasty anti-union campaign launched by Hertz is indicative of a broader trend of employers, both organized and un-organized, to drive down wages and benefits in order to maximize profits and make working people pay for the current global capitalist economic crisis. Whether it's a car rental clerk, a paramedic, a grocery store teller, or a steelworker, we should not be fooled into thinking that what we are up against is fundamentally different, separate, or apart. Let's all support the fight for job security at Hertz, not just for them, but for us all.
** Since this article was published, Hertz workers won a new Collective Agreement with their employer and have returned to work.**