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Chicago auto mechanics strike continues: Union rep. Ronnie Gonzalez on where negotiations stand

As reported by the Chicago Tribune, more than 800 union auto mechanics are still on strike after failed negotiations of a new four-year labor contract. The strike has shut down vehicle service work at 56 new car dealerships in the Chicago metro area. Joining us on the show today to discuss where negotiations stand from the union’s perspective is Ronnie Gonzalez, Business Representative for IAM Mechanic Local 701.

Gonzalez begins the conversation by describing how the negotiations began. After the union’s previous collective bargaining agreement expired on July 31, the Local 701 and the New Car Dealer Committee (NCDC), a branch of the Chicago Automobile Trade Association (CATA), failed to renew an agreement, resulting in the current strike.

Gonzalez says that one of the biggest issues is language. The NCDC’s proposal has applied most-favored-nations language that, from the union’s perspective, undermines the collective bargaining process. This clause is a provision that would give the NCDC authority to pursue other automotive contracts if they find terms more beneficial to them.

Gonzalez states, “We believe that each company, negotiation, and agreement has their own set of circumstances and shouldn’t be relevant to any other agreement.”

Currently, there are no union members inside, performing any service at any of the affected car dealerships as of August 2. While Gonzalez admits that he doesn’t know how long this process with go on, hopefully, the Local 701 can get back to the table and fix the issues that are before them.

Gonzalez thinks the membership spoke loud and clear with their 97% rejection of the NCDC’s proposal. He adds that minor tweaks to the agreement will not get anyone far in the bargaining process. The next step is getting back to the table with the other side and fixing the issues. Gonzalez is confident that the union has made it clear what its expectations are. The three outstanding issues included the most-favored-nations clause, the failure to properly fund health insurance, and the ability for management to reduce an auto mechanic’s base wage for overtime hours.

Gonzalez ends the conversation by discussing the need for auto mechanic recruiting. They aim to bring in young employees through an apprenticeship program. However, the training channels need funding. This is the only trade where employees have to be a master of multiple trades, to do just one.

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