By Vincent Cross
More than 800 mechanics walked off the job on Monday after Automobile Mechanics’ Local 701 authorized a strike, rejecting the latest contract offered by an association of 56 car dealerships across the greater Chicago area.
According to a statement by the union, problems with the association’s proposed contract include decreased healthcare benefits, contract language that would allow for wage cuts and weaken collective bargaining, and a general lack of support and training for mechanics employed by the dealerships.
Disapproval of the offer was overwhelming, with 97 percent of mechanics voting to reject it and another 99 percent voting to go on strike. The union representing the workers is the largest local of unionized mechanics in the country, and previously went on strike during their last contract negotiations in 2017. That walkout lasted seven weeks and encompassed around 2,000 mechanics across 129 dealerships in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs.
In a comment posted on social media, one mechanic explained some of the grievances behind the strike: “We get less than 25% of the labor rate [for repairs done by the dealership]. We buy all our own tools. … We work 40 hours but yet our pay only reflects 36 at times… That’s why it was [a] 99% vote [to] strike.”
In their statement, the union noted that the president of a local Chicago-area car dealership association even recognized that a “shortage of technicians at franchised dealers has been a problem for many years.” Despite this recognition, many car dealerships continue to attempt to erode working conditions, benefits, and contract protections for mechanics and technicians, driving many qualified mechanics away from the association.
The mechanics’ walkout is part of a growing wave of strikes and labor disputes occurring across the country as workers fight back against the pay decreases, benefit cuts, and worsening work conditions that owners have imposed or are attempting to impose as they take advantage of the ongoing economic crisis.
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