About 2,000 auto mechanics went on strike Tuesday at nearly 140 new car dealerships in the Chicago area.
The work stoppage came after a midnight deadline to reach an agreement on a three-year contract was not met.
The striking union mechanics work at about a third of the 420 new car dealerships in Chicago and its suburbs, Sam Cicinelli, directing business representative for Automobile Mechanics Local 701, said in a statement.
“The technicians are simply looking for a fair share of the industry growth,” he said.
About 20 people with picket signs were gathered outside a Subaru dealership at 4330 W. Irving Park Road.
“We’re trying to be respectful of the dealers, and the dealers are being respectful of us. We can all come into an agreement sooner or later. We just have to do what’s right for us,” auto technician Alex Peric said.
“Today is the first day. We cannot say how many days we will be out here.”
Mark Bilek, director of the Chicago Automobile Trade Association, said Tuesday that the work stoppage should not inconvenience many customers.
“Most of the dealers that are affected by this proactively reached out to customers who had scheduled services,” he said. “We would love to see a resolution to this as soon as possible for both dealers and mechanics who are not getting paid.”
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.
“Everyone who came in today got turned away,” auto technician Rudy Martinez said outside Marino Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram, 5133 W. Irving Park Road. “We’ve had a couple of customers come in but not a lot, They canceled all the appointments.”
The union took concessions in their last two contracts to save jobs during tough economic times, Cicinelli said.
The union wants a guaranteed 40-hour workweek, 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.