Chicago-area mechanics striking to ‘protect the union’ reach fourth week without deal

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NAPERVILLE, Ill. — At Toyota of Naperville, technicians with automobile mechanics union Local 701 walked the picket line Wednesday, anxious to get back to work, but not without assurances.

IAMAW Mechanics’ Local 701 is the largest automobile mechanic union in the United States. The strike, now in its fourth week, affects 830 workers. Keri Rautenkranz, a car mechanic at Lexus of Naperville, is one of the hundreds on strike.

“If we don’t stand together, we would be cut apart separately,” Rautenkranz said.

Elsewhere, service bays are quiet, which is not good news for Ronnie Gonzalez, the union Local 701 business agent. He says both sides have resolved most issues, but there are some sticking points with what the union considers to be the lack of money towards the Health and Welfare fund.

Gonzalez spoke about another issue.

“There is a favored nations clause that basically gives the [New Car Dealership Committee] the ability to go in and cherry-pick from other automotive contracts to provisions that are more favorable to them. And the membership and the union disagree with that,” Gonzalez said.

There are 56 area dealerships part of the New Car Dealership Committee (NCDC). WGN reached out to an NCDC representative in response to the strike:

Unfortunately, our offer has been misrepresented from the outset, and our employees are being used to further union political gains. We remain ready to get back to the negotiating table to work out the last few issues and get our employees back to work as soon as possible.”

New Car Dealer Committee

Ryan and Felicia Schulte, who welcomed a newborn just two months ago, were among picketers Wednesday.

“I like fixing things. Never been to book smart, but I can fix almost anything with my hands,” Ryan Schulte said. “I like to problem-solve.”

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Ryan Schulte said he is anxious to get back to work, but only if the conditions are right. He said he understands the inconvenience of the strike but offered words of encouragement.

“Just to tough it out, just like us. We’re not out here for a whole lot of money. This go-around is to protect the union. It’s to protect our pension, our health and welfare, and our families.”

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