Union rep expects mechanics’ strike to end within a week

SHARE Union rep expects mechanics’ strike to end within a week

Striking mechanics picket on Aug. 1 outside a dealership. | Amanda Svachula/Sun-Times

Union mechanics have not yet reached a deal to end their six-week strike, turning down a final offer from the New Car Dealer Committee, the group negotiating for Chicago-area dealerships.

However, Sam Cicinelli, directing business representative for Automobile Mechanics’ Local 701, said he expects the strike to end within a week as dealerships negotiate independently.

Since rejecting the committee’s offer, the union has seen an influx of dealers looking to negotiate on their own, according to Cicinelli. As of Thursday, about half of the 129 dealerships in the NCDC had signed interim agreements that have put their mechanics back to work, Cicinelli said.

In an online statement Wednesday, the union said the dealers’ willingness to sign such agreements “only drives home the point that the Union’s position is reasonable.”

NCDC representatives could not be reached for comment Thursday.

About 1,700 mechanics put down their tools on Aug. 1, when their previous four-year contract expired. Union demands have included a minimum base pay of 40 hours per week, and changes to a wage structure that pays for hours assigned, not hours worked.

An NCDC spokesman previously said the parties agreed on some points before the union voted to strike, including 5-percent annual pay raises, full pension payments and full family health care.

Cicinelli said the union is currently holding out for an additional hour in the base pay in the fourth year of the contract, and the removal of a $5 weekly employee contribution to health insurance in the third year.

On Sept. 6, the NCDC website urged the union to accept their latest offer, which included an increase from 34 to 35 base-pay hours. The sides met to discuss a “final offer” from the NCDC on Sept. 9, which the union rejected in a Monday vote.

Bill Koller, service adviser for the Sherman Dodge Jeep RAM dealership in Skokie, said their shop reopened Tuesday after the dealership struck an independent deal with the union.

“Everybody is happy, everyone is back to work and everything is good here,” Koller said.

A dealership mechanic who declined to give his name said he and 16 co-workers returned after signing an individual contract that included a pay increase. He said he was happy to be back to work after “the longest month of my life.”

Koller said the strike “was really impacting people’s lives.”

“A lot of the necessary functions of the dealership just weren’t possible” without the mechanics, Koller said. “I was delivering parts just to get a paycheck. It was rough.”

Now that their service center has reopened, Koller said business is booming.

“It’s extremely busy right now because all the other dealerships’ mechanics are standing outside,” he said. “These guys don’t want to be standing outside, but unfortunately they’re still striking.”

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