Sep 13, 2021
Striking auto mechanics in the Chicago Area are holding firm after six weeks on strike against 53 new car dealerships.
Over 800 members of Local 701 of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace workers walked off the job on August 1st after 99% voted to strike.
“This time they picked a fight with us, but they had no idea how strong and united we were,” said one picket line strike captain. “The dealers are spreading the lie that this is just about our hourly rate, but it’s much more than that. They’re trying to take away what we had already won in the past.”
The car dealers are demanding a “most favored nation” clause in their new contract. This means, for example, that if workers in one dealership within the Midwest region accept an hourly rate less than the other dealerships, then the lowest rate could apply to ALL dealerships!
On top of that, these chiselers are looking to get their greedy paws on the union’s health and safety fund, refusing to contribute unless reserve funds are spent first. And they want to do away with the mechanics’ guaranteed 36 hours work week to boot!
The threat to health coverage benefits angers strikers. One worker said the current coverage is not great, and he had to jump through hoops to reduce his out-of- pocket costs for a hip replacement he needed after an on-the-job injury. If the dealers get their way to cut benefits further, workers in a similar situation could well face medical costs way beyond their means.
In the strike’s second month, picket lines remain solid and spirited. They have been joined by other workers and unions. Strikers’ spirits are lifted by the many “honks” of support they receive from passing motorists. However, they know they could be in for a long fight.
The Mechanics have joined striking workers at Nabisco and Frito-Lay who are under similar attacks and refuse to be rolled over by their bosses. These strikes can spread around the country and send a powerful statement that further attacks won’t be tolerated.