Chicago Union on Strike, Car Dealers on Hold

Bob Ulrich
Posted on September 5, 2017

Close to 2,000 technicians at 129 dealerships in metropolitan Chicago have been celebrating the ironically named Labor Day since Aug. 1. That is when Automobile Mechanics’ Local 701 members working under the Standard Automotive Agreement went on strike.

At this point, there seem to be three key unresolved issues (others have been resolved). Based on the propaganda released by both sides, it appears the first emphasizes the need for a base pay “guarantee,” the second involves the employee’s contribution to heath care insurance, and the third focuses on flexible work week limitations.

I say “appears” because of the way each group defines them. Let’s look at each one individually.

1. Base pay. The union says the base pay guarantee centers on a 40-hour guaranteed work week. The New Car Dealers Committee (NCDC), which represents and negotiates for the 129 car dealers, says the union is requesting a guaranteed weekly base salary of more than $1,200. The NCDC’s $1,200 offer is 9% greater than the previous amount of $1,100 paid “regardless of productivity.” Regardless of who is right, this issue is all about money.

2. Health care. The NCDC says the union is balking at paying for any “increases” in the cost of health care; the union has been non-committal as to what it means by the issue of the “weekly employee contribution to the Health and Welfare Fund.” The NCDC says the union is unwilling to pay an additional $5 a month in health care. Money again.

3. Flexible work week limitations. Both groups agree a flexible work week is necessary. Based on what I read, the NCDC wants there to be no limitations, while the union wants “some relief” to the more senior “Journeymen Technicians.” This issue isn't about money but control.

These issues came directly from the Local 701 and NCDC websites, respectively. Who knows if either or both of the parties are spinning the truth?

For example, the NCDC claims union leadership initiated a campaign “to illegally bargain directly with certain hand-picked NCDC dealers.” The committee went on to say union officials “have been soliciting these dealers with contract terms that are outside of the parameters approved by NCDC members in return for a promise to end the strike at those stores.”

The union claims this is not true, saying it “has been approached by a variety of dealers stating that they have notified the NCDC of their intent to withdraw from the association and who have also expressed a desire to work something out with the union.”

The NCDC is either telling the truth, lying or mistaken. The union is either telling the truth or lying.

I’ve seen nastier fights with much more unfriendly rhetoric, but it could get uglier. Both parties have drawn lines in the sand saying they want a good and fair contract; they just don’t know how to define good and fair.

The motto of Automobile Mechanics’ Local 701 is “Ours is the skill that keeps the Nation moving forward!" However, since Aug. 1, 2017, that has not been the case for some 2,000 members, or the union itself.

And that number may grow. Reportedly, some union members not bound by the Standard Automotive Agreement have joined the striking workers.

Like I said, at least for the striking technicians and car dealers in Chicagoland, it could get uglier. The car dealers might lose business they will never get back, making some of those tech jobs irrelevant.

As for the car owners, they have other options. Independent tire dealers, perhaps?

Related Topics: car dealerships, labor unions, New Car Dealers Committee, technicians

Bob Ulrich Editor
Comments ( 7 )
  • See all comments
  • John

     | about 12 months ago

    In the end you are just a plebs revoltving against your slave master. You might get a bone thrown to you and you might get a fair contract but in the end you are the same. If you don't like it then be independent and work for yourself. Stop depending on someone to take care of you. You think this situation is unique to just auto mechanics? This is an issue with people in bondage to the elite class. You knew what the job entailed when you got into it (buying tools, paid by the job etc). Find a different line of work if you don't like it. You are not going to change the world and in the end you lost no matter if you get what you want or not. The ultra rich can not be hurt by you refusing to work. And further everyone is replaceable no matter how much training or experience you have. You are arrogant and full of it if you think otherwise. This is how life is, deal with it. Yes there was a time unions made important changes so that people are not working day and night in sweat shops. But what you are doing is just greed. I see you all have enough money to sit outside for weeks. So you made enough money on your union job to just sit and not work right?! Do you know the statistics in America? Most Americans don't make nearly as much as you and don't have the luxury to strike. So think again. All you guys with boats, motorcycles, second homes etc. You were treated so bad and made so little money you have nothing right? Bull. Stop depending on your master to take care of you till you die, take care of yourself.

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