Dealership group accuses striking mechanics of labor law violation

The bargaining group of new-car dealerships involved in a monthlong mechanics walkout is accusing the union representing the striking technicians of violating federal labor law.

The charge, filed Tuesday with the National Labor Relations Board, came after more than half a dozen dealerships broke away from the bargaining group to reach separate agreements with their unionized workers.

Asking dealerships to break ranks with the New Car Dealer Committee, which bargains on their behalf, violates fair labor practices, the charge alleges. Negotiating with the individual dealerships and entering into separate agreements with them are also violations, the charge states.

"We have a multiemployer bargaining association," said Dave Sloan, a spokesman for the committee. "The union chose to go outside of that agreement that was binding on both sides and bargain individually ... which is against the law."

A representative from the Automobile Mechanics' Local 701 did not respond immediately Wednesday to requests for comment.

Mechanics at almost 140 new-car dealerships throughout the Chicago area went on strike Aug. 1, demanding a contract that resolves sticking points such as uncompensated work time. Though the parties have come to the bargaining table multiple times, negotiations appear to have stalled.

Meanwhile, business at the affected dealerships has suffered. Though some have continued offering basic services like oil changes or tire rotations, many had to shut down repairs completely. Some laid off nonunion employees for lack of work.

More than half a dozen dealerships reached separate agreements with the union. The strike had gone on long enough, service managers at some of those dealerships said.

Mechanics that had been on strike at those dealerships returned to work this week, and business came flooding back, the service managers said.

The New Car Dealership Committee immediately condemned the move. Though the union is facing most of the committee's ire, the rogue dealerships may also have been in violation.

Employers are not allowed to leave multiemployer bargaining units during negotiations unless both sides agree or there are unusual circumstances, according to a decision the NLRB made in June in an unrelated case.

The last mechanics strike involving Local 701 occurred in 1994 and lasted more than six weeks.

The charge filed Tuesday asks the NLRB to stop the union's actions.

"In the interim, we hope the union will get back to the table and work out an agreement," Sloan said.

amarotti@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @AllyMarotti

Copyright © 2017, CT Now
70°