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Last year there were over 1.5 million vehicles registered in Cook County, where Chicago is located. We don’t know how many of those normally get service at dealers but right now it is zero. That’s because mechanics at 56 Chicago dealerships walked out on Monday. 

Union Local 701 had been in negotiations for months with the NCDC

cars in dealership service bays
Mechanics perform maintenance on Lexus autos at a dealership in Chicago, Illinois | Scott Olson/Getty Images

The mechanics are part of Local 701 of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. They had been negotiating a new contract for months. Dealer mechanics are also members of the New Car Dealer Committee of Chicago (NCDC). The NCDC offered a contract proposal on Saturday, according to Automotive News. By Sunday, 99 percent of the members voted to strike, which they did Monday. 

“Withholding labor until fair working terms and conditions are agreed to is a Union member’s last resort and the decision was not made lightly,” Local 701 said in a news release. The release also explained the union’s position and what it saw as the three main problems.

There are three main sticking points in the union negotiations

Service manager checks in car
Service writer at Premier Chrysler in Chicago, Illinois | Scott Olson/Getty Images

The union objects making it easier for dealers to reduce pay for mechanics not meeting expectations while experiencing issues outside of their control. This revolves around COVID-19 lockdowns or similar outside circumstances. The next issue is that the union wants the NCDC to pay the health insurance rates previously agreed upon. 

The final issue is the union is asking for a change in contract wording. It says it’s undermining “the bargaining process by allowing it to cherry-pick provisions that it sees as favorable in other agreements.”

 “Instead of working on the issues as promised, the union’s leadership put their own internal political interests ahead of the membership and simply decided they were going to try and make the NCDC swallow a one-sided contract without any real compromise,” NCDC said in a statement. “The failure to recommend this contract to its members is a failure by the union’s management and it will again cost dealers and their service technicians dearly.”

The last time Chicago mechanics went on strike was in 2017

Dealership service bays
Tyrone Browley replaces the brakes on a Lexus LX470 at a dealership in Chicago, Illinois | Scott Olson/Getty Images

This isn’t the first time Chicago-area mechanics have walked off of the job. Negotiating a new contract in 2017, dealer mechanics went on strike for over seven weeks. The NCDC says that its proposal included changes during negotiations. It also says it included “significant wage and benefit increases.” And it said it made changes where there were disagreements. 

But the union says that the NCDC doesn’t support training and doesn’t want to change current retirement benefits. As one would expect there is a lot of back and forth in the public arena between the two sides. 

What this means for Chicago residents is that dealerships will have skeleton crews or no crews working on servicing cars. How far off the two sides are and how long the strike will last we don’t know. And for those with cars already in service bays when the strike started, they’re out of luck until the dealer techs get back to work.


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