Photo by Dermot Connolly
Auto mechanics Steve Tracy (from left), union steward Eli Triantafilis, Scott Ruckman, Joe Wozze and Roman Stecko took a brief break from picketing Shirey Cadillac, 10125 S. Cicero Ave., Oak Lawn, on Friday to talk about the issues behind the strike by Local 701 that began Aug. 1.
The strike by Automobile Mechanics Union Local 701 is into its seventh week, and there is no end in sight following the decision Monday by members to reject the latest offer by the New Car Dealer Committee.
Mark Bilek, director of communications with the Chicago Automobile Trade Association, said the strike involves about 1,700 technicians employed at the 129 Chicago-area dealerships that belong to the New Car Dealer Committee.
He said there are 420 new-car dealers in the Chicago area, so about one-third are affected by the strike, including several in Oak Lawn and nearby communities. At many of those dealerships, without their mechanics on staff, only oil changes and other minor work is being done.
According to Bilek, no new negotiations are currently scheduled, following the decision to reject the latest offer.
Union steward Eli Triantafilis and several co-workers put down their picket signs outside Shirey Cadillac, 10125 S. Cicero Ave. in Oak Lawn, last Friday to share their views on the work stoppage that began Aug. 1, when their previous contract ended.
Prior to the vote on Monday, they were optimistic that the latest offer would be acceptable. But “the devil is in the details,” said Triantafilis, who has been working at the same location for nearly 39 years.
“One offer was thrown at us (last Wednesday), but that was rejected, too,” he added.
“The big thing is uncompensated time,” said the union steward, explaining that the mechanics are only guaranteed to be paid for 34 hours of work each week, but the jobs often take longer than that, so they end up working without pay.
The most recent offer rejected on Monday would have guaranteed 35 hours of work per week. But the mechanics are looking for 40 hours.
“They’re totally unrealistic (about factory-set job times),” said Triantafilis.
“With these computers, it takes longer than people think to diagnose a problem,” he added. “And some of the problems are intermittent, which makes it harder to solve.”
“Some people think we can just plug the car into a machine and it will tell us everything that is wrong. But it is more complicated than that. The machines can tell you which system is not working, but nothing more than that,” said the union steward.
He and his co-workers, many of whom have also been working at the same dealership for decades, said the high number of recalls are causing problems as well. They said the times allotted for certain jobs to be done have actually been reduced, for no reason.
“It seems like Ford, GM and Chrysler are telling customers they can get all this work for free, and are trying to save money on the backs of the mechanics,” said Triantafilis.
Scott Ruckman, who has been working for Shirey for 36 years, noted that since the strike began, several car dealerships, including Rizza and McCarthy Ford, have separated from the NCDC and come to agreement with their mechanics.
Bilek said Tuesday that 29 dealerships had made separate contract agreements, allowing their mechanics to go back to work. But he said those agreements are in dispute and have not been approved by the National Labor Relations Board, because the member dealerships negotiated separately.
“The status of those contracts is in question,” said Bilek. “Technically, those employees are (picket) cross-overs.”