Strike continues as Chicago-area mechanics vote down latest offer from dealers

The union representing almost 2,000 mechanics striking throughout the Chicago area voted over the weekend to continue the two-week walkout.

Members of the Automobile Mechanics' Local 701 voted Saturday and "overwhelmingly rejected" the latest offer from a negotiating group representing area auto dealerships, said Sam Cicinelli, directing business representative for Local 701.

"We've tried addressing our proposal in other variations that continue to just be ignored," Cicinelli said. "It's driving our mechanics nuts."

Mechanics at almost 140 new-car dealerships throughout the Chicago area went on strike Aug. 1, demanding a contract that resolved sticking points such as uncompensated work time.

The New Car Dealer Committee, which negotiates on behalf of the dealerships, presented the most recent offer last week.

"We are disappointed by the results of the vote, but we remain motivated to resolve the outstanding issues and end the work stoppage," according to a statement from the committee.

In the two weeks since the strike began, dealerships have been turning away customers and canceling scheduled maintenance appointments. In such a competitive auto repair market, some dealers worry about winning customers back when the strike does end.

Both parties said they are willing to return to the negotiating table and get this resolved, but a meeting has yet to be set.

There are about 420 new-car dealerships in the Chicago area. Of those, about 180 are unionized. In Illinois, there are no partially unionized dealerships. The mechanics at each dealership decide if they will be in the union. The dealerships affected by this strike are those that bargain with the New Car Dealer Committee.

The last mechanics strike involving Local 701 occurred in 1994, Cicinelli said. According to reports in the Chicago Tribune, that strike affected about 2,700 mechanics.

There were two contracts being negotiated then, Cicinelli said. The mechanics under one contract were on strike for about two weeks, he said, but those under the second contract were on strike for more than six weeks.

Mechanics participating in the current strike returned to the picket lines Monday morning.

"Nobody advocates for a strike," the union said in a post on its website. "That's the last resort that we use, if necessary. Strikes are unfortunately painful to our members, their families and the industry as a whole."

amarotti@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @AllyMarotti

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