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updated: 9/4/2017 6:48 AM

Mechanics strike drags on but some cutting solo deals with union

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  • Striking auto mechanics outside Cadillac of Naperville are among hundreds in the region picketing dealerships in a labor action that started Aug. 1.

      Striking auto mechanics outside Cadillac of Naperville are among hundreds in the region picketing dealerships in a labor action that started Aug. 1.
    Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • Striking auto mechanics outside of Toyota of Naperville are among hundreds in the region picketing dealerships.

      Striking auto mechanics outside of Toyota of Naperville are among hundreds in the region picketing dealerships.
    Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

 
 

Ever since the error sign flashed on her trusty Nissan, Kimberly Riney has lived on borrowed time and a borrowed car.

The Wood Dale driver's dealership can't repair her car because its mechanics are on strike, a walkout affecting close to 130 members of the New Car Dealers Committee since it started Aug. 1.

Some dealerships have broken with the NCDC and made peace with the Automobile Mechanics Local 701, although that's sparked a complaint to the National Labor Relations Board.

But Riney's not among the lucky car owners who can now schedule repairs and she's running out of time, noting that without a vehicle she'd need to rent one or pay for Uber rides to get to work.

"Today is my last day of the 'borrowed' wheels and I am growing restless. I'm still not sure how I will manage without a car," Riney said Friday. As the walkout drags on, consumers who need routine oil changes or major repairs face uncertainties, with some dealerships hiring outside workers and others turning customers away.

A random survey found Oakbrook Toyota and Napleton Ford in Libertyville accepting service appointments while Evanston Subaru and Zimmerman Ford in St. Charles were turning away clients.

An estimated one-third of the dealerships affected by the strike are employing temporary replacement workers, said NCDC spokesman Mark Bilek.

Should consumers worry about nonunion or faux mechanics tinkering with their cars?

Regarding repairs, Bilek noted that "warranty repair can only be done by Society of Automotive Engineers certified techs. Also, if the customer was not happy with the repair, they need to return to the dealership for satisfaction."

The AAA provides an Approved Auto Repair program with more than 8,000 screened businesses that have been "inspected, tested and approved," spokeswoman Beth Mosher said.

"Our screening, which includes a series of criteria including customer service, staff qualifications and training and business reputation, has been in place since 1975 and can be used by both AAA members and nonmembers," she said, adding the information is online at aaa.com/autorepair.

Initially, about 1,700 mechanics were striking, but a dozen or so dealerships -- including Castle Auto Group with locations in Elk Grove Village and the Autobarn Limited with showrooms in Mount Prospect -- have reached agreements with Local 701. Several service departments at those dealerships said appointments were getting booked up fast as customers flocked back.

Those settlements prompted pushback from the New Car Dealers Committee, which filed an unfair labor practices complaint Tuesday.

The complaint, which is being investigated, alleges the union persuaded individual dealers to withdraw from the association and negotiate and finalize separate agreements apart from the NCDC.

The NCDC considers those agreements to be illegal and nonbinding, Bilek said. "This action by the union has delayed negotiations for at least a week and prolonged the strike by, at least, a similar amount of time."

Updates on Local 701's website dispute that. They say the union was approached by dealers and did not solicit anyone to leave the association.

"The union is prepared to vigorously defend against these charges," an official stated. "The charges filed at the NLRB will not adversely affect the continued goal of reaching an agreement and ending the strike."

Negotiations were continuing as of Friday.

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