Nearly 2,000 mechanics set to strike at Chicago-area car dealerships

on Jul31

31 July 2017 | 11:21 pm

About 2,000 auto mechanics are set to strike at 130 new car dealerships across the Chicago area on Tuesday, in a work stoppage that could cause headaches for car owners in need of a tuneup.

Negotiations were ongoing Monday afternoon ahead of a midnight deadline to agree on a three-year contract. But representatives for Automobile Mechanics’ Local 701 and the Chicago Automobile Trade Association said a strike appeared likely.

The union mechanics work at 130 of the 420 new car dealerships in Chicago and its suburbs. A work stoppage could be an “inconvenience” for some car owners, trade association communications director Mark Bilek said.

“The dealerships plan to keep their garages open as best they can,” he said. “Customers might not be able to drive straight to their regular dealer for service like they normally would.”

The sides have met 16 times since coming to the bargaining table in mid-June. The Chicago New Car Dealer Committee is negotiating on behalf of the trade association.

Sam Cicinelli, Local 701’s directing business representative, said the union took concessions in their last two contracts to save jobs during tough economic times.

“Now the technicians are simply looking for a fair share of the industry growth,” he said.

The union wants a guaranteed 40-hour work week, better schedules and higher apprentice wages to attract talent to the industry. The trade association says the mechanics’ demands are too expensive for dealerships to stay competitive with franchise service shops like Jiffy Lube.

According to Bilek, the sides agreed on some points before the union voted on Sunday to strike, including 5 percent annual pay raises, full pension payments and full family health care.

Bilek said car owners in need of immediate service should call their dealership ahead of time to arrange repairs. A list of affected dealers is posted on the union’s website.

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