Meet queued meсhаniсs wоrking tо reраir а 'tоxiс industry'

Three LGBTQ auto shop owners describe how their businesses provide a transparent, accessible and welcoming alternative to the status quo.

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After eight years and nearly twice as many jobs, El Sherkar was done with the auto industry - or at least, that's what he thought.

Sherkar, who uses gender-neutral pronouns, grew up with a grandmother who embodied the power of DIY. With her help, Scherker quickly learned to fix an old Chevy van, fell in love with the process and decided to pursue a career in auto repair. But in shop after shop, his experience was largely characterized by transphobic harassment and confrontation, and it took a toll.

In 2013 Scherker hit his breaking point. He sold most of his equipment and got a job at a coffee shop in Seattle, where the tips were good and the cars were irrelevant. But, like most detours, it did not last long. About a year later, after fixing a coworker's car, they found themselves in an auto shop once again, and this time it was different - because the shop that pulled them back was owned by Qatar.

"I walked in, talked to the owner Ellie, and was working there the following week," Sherkar said. "Working there gave me the confidence to feel that I really wanted to be in the industry. Allie was making room for the people and customers who needed it, you know? And I had a lot of hers right from the start. There was patience. In a few weeks, I was working there the whole time. "

The crew in the repair revolution in Seattle. Stephanie Ariza / Opening of the Eyes Photography

That shop was the Repair Revolution, founded in 2012 in Seattle by mechanic Eli Ellison. In an industry where both Allison and Shaker are rife with toxic masculinity and homosexuality, Allison hopes that the repair revolution is an oasis - a place where any type of person, queer or not, can make their car without judgment . The space itself has an open layout to invite people, and as far as staff are concerned, every single mechanic working there is either a woman, queer or both. For Scherker, it was a Godsend, and the reason they are still in the industry today.

Scherker's experience as a trans person in the auto industry is not unique. In my own experience, people on both sides of the counter, who are explicitly queued up or otherwise do not conform to traditional gender roles, are not always welcome.

"I was told, if you want to be successful, just keep your head down, do well," Allison, who uses gender-neutral pronouns, said of her early days in the industry. "You have to work twice as hard. I used a female name and pronoun at that time, and it was like I represented all the women and the people queuing up for them, so I had to prove that women were doing this job. Can. It was like, if you want to do that, you have to be okay with sexually abusive friends in the tool room - just really crazy stuff. And every person I've interviewed for a technician position , Who is either a woman or a lesbian, has terrible stories of whatever she has endured to make it in this profession. "

In 2017, a survey of 900 women working in the automotive industry echoed Allison's sentiments. Sixty-five percent of respondents said they were subject to unwanted sexual advances at some point during their careers, and 80 percent of respondents said they had seen sexist behavior at least once at a company's off-site or industry conferences.

Jill Trotta, vice president of industry, sales and certification at RepairPal, an online network of repair shops, has been working with women in auto care to address diversity and inclusion issues since 2013.

"The auto industry really lacks diversity in all aspects," she said. "I don't think there has been any significant improvement in the last 30 years. With the climate in 2020, talking about diversity and inclusion has become very trendy, but I'm interested to see if we can see that change going forward Can raise and run. "

Meanwhile, Allison's decision to open his own shop - versus, say, simply avoiding the industry for good - was his way of answering a simple question: what if there was another way?

"Every single day we hear from at least one customer what a wonderful experience it has been and how much they knew about their car when they came from this place," he said. "That's why we exist. It makes me hope that people are hungry for it."

El Scherker, left, owner and founder of Stargazer Garage. Amelia scherker

After working six years under Allison's mentorship, Sherker moved south to Portland, Oregon, and opened his shop in 2020 called Stargazer Garage. They adopted the People-First Model of Repair Revolution, which at the top focuses on transparency, inclusivity and access.

"We strive from beginning to end to build relationships with our customers," Allison said. "I think as a quirky proprietary business that exists to change this industry or, at the very least, disrupt it, we are for our community and you know? So this is another level of accountability. Is. This is my community I'm working for. There's more at stake. "

Every interaction with every customer is clearly different - just like every car is different. But Shadow Milchetin, a queued automotive educator, journalist and founder of mechanic Shop Fame, said that education has a thru line: to allow customers to peek under the hood, to a large extent. She considers this to be an important component to truly transform the entire industry.

"Studies have shown that people who educate themselves on topics such as cars are more empowered and more willing to answer 'no' when they go to a car repair shop and not feel honored." We do." "The most powerful way we can say 'no' and refuse to give our business to those who knowingly insult us, or if they inadvertently refuse to honor us after correcting them after doing so We do. "