Evanston car dealerships affected by Chicago auto mechanics’ strike


Molly Glick/The Daily Northwestern

Auto mechanics on strike outside the Autobahn Volkswagen in Evanston. The mechanics are among 2,000 striking throughout the Chicago area.

Molly Glick, Reporter

A Chicago area auto mechanic strike has spread to four Evanston car dealerships — Autobarn Mazda, Autobarn Volkswagen, Autobarn Nissan and Autobarn Fiat — as Evanston mechanics join the protest.

About 2,000 mechanics in the Chicago area have been on strike since Tuesday after their union almost unanimously rejected a three-year agreement with the New Car Dealer Committee that would have continued similar working conditions, according to the Automobile Mechanics’ Local 701’s website. About a third of the 420 new car dealerships in the Chicago area have joined, Sam Cicinelli, the directing business representative for the union, told the Chicago Sun-Times in a statement.

“Dealerships are bent on stifling current talent and making the automotive industry less attractive to future Technicians,” the Local 701’s website said.

The four Autobarn dealerships in Evanston have had service shops staffed by union workers since July 1992, said Jonathan Sammons, general sales manager of Autobarn Mazda, in a statement.

“We hope that the 701 conflict can be resolved quickly so that we can perform all of our services with a full staff,” Sammons said. “For the time being, we are performing general maintenance tasks, such as oil changes, tires and batteries.”

The mechanics’ list of demands include reverting the eight-year apprenticeship back to four years, eliminating additional health care costs and modifying the flexible work week, according to a union flyer obtained by The Daily. Mechanics are also currently required to return 15 percent of earnings to dealerships, according to the flyer — a percentage that they hope to reduce.

“(The dealer committee) basically tried to throw money at a continued problem within the industry thinking that they would just stifle the members to accept and continue to work, but they’ve been working under these conditions for eight years. It’s not working,” Cicinelli told the Chicago Tribune. “What do we do for a living? We fix things. We’re trying to fix something that’s broken.”

Evanston’s Mazda, Nissan, Volkswagen and Fiat dealerships are all located adjacent to one other on Chicago Avenue between Greenleaf Street and Main Street.

About six workers stood outside the Volkswagen dealership on Wednesday afternoon holding signs in protest. The crowd included John Ferraro, 60, the dealership’s Master Volkswagen Technician since 1993.

“We hope to get this settled soon. We need to get together and work it out, get back to business as normal,” Ferraro said.

As the mechanics stood on Chicago Avenue, most passersby blared their car horns.

“We’ve had a lot of support from the community, as you can hear and tell,” Ferraro said. “I think they respect what the unions are for: just trying to get fair negotiations and fair contracts.”

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