Chicago car mechanics on strike, say dealerships are trying to intimidate them
Car mechanics throughout Chicago area are continuing their strike, as car dealerships refuse to accept their conditions and come to a compromise.
About 2,000 workers went on strike last week at 130 new car dealerships across the Chicago area, demanding higher pay, new tools and better working conditions. Strike leaders report that both sides are far from an agreement, as neither mechanics nor car dealerships are willing to back down.
However, mechanics claim that they are being bullied into submission by the dealerships, even while carrying out a peaceful strike.
Fifteen mechanics at the Cadillac of Naperville dealership retrieved their tool boxes this Saturday. This is an action they were instructed to do, by management, who said they will no longer be responsible for the service technicians’ belongings until the strike is over. Many of which said this it was an unnecessary form on intimidation.
“We originally wanted to strike professionally — not blocking the service entrance, not engaging with customers unless we were engaged first, only picketing the front of the store,” said John Bisbikis, a service technician. “And that’s how we started until provoked with letters and salesmen driving on the sidewalks at us.”
That specific incident Bisbikis referred to was recorded by one of the mechanics on Friday. “They [salesmen] were moving cars of the front pad, and instead of using the back-way, like they they normally do, they chose for some reason to come around the front where we were all standing,” Bisbikis said. He called the incident “very intimidating.”
The group also received a letter from management, which says, in part: “We will no longer be paying for your health insurance. We have placed ads for replacement technicians. All tools, tool boxes and personal belongings must be removed by Saturday August 5th at 5:30 p.m.”
A representative from the Mechanics’ Union Local 701 said the dealership can legally replace the workers, but only temporarily. The union is mainly pushing for a guaranteed 40-hour work week, a change Sloan said could eliminate the current system, which rewards a dealership’s most productive technicians with more hours.
Dealerships have “draconian pay structures prohibiting our ability to attract young, aspiring mechanics to enter the auto repair profession,” according to a statement released by the union.
Unattractive pay rates coupled with the inability to progress or achieve a long-term profession in the field are drivers of mechanic frustration, said Sam Cicinelli, Local 701 directing business representative, in the statement. “Who will fix the cars and trucks in our future?” Cicinelli asked.