The group of approximately 130 Chicago-area new car dealers (called the New Car Dealers Committee, or NCDC) that is bargaining for a new contract covering its service technicians with Mechanics' Union Local 701, is disappointed that the Union has initiated a strike, but NCDC remains committed to reaching an agreement that serves the best interests of their customers their employees. The previous 4-year contract between NCDC and Local 701 expired on July 31 at midnight, and a strike commenced early on the morning of August 1 at all 130 NCDC Member Dealers.
Obviously, safety is the #1 concern for all NCDC Dealers, and we will take all reasonable steps to protect the safety of all who are impacted by this strike. We are also seriously concerned about our ability to service our customers. As you know, customers in the Chicago area have many, many choices on where to purchase and service their vehicles. If a customer is confronted with a strike at an NCDC location, the customer may decide to go elsewhere for the service. And once a customer goes to another store, we know from years of experience that it can be very difficult to convince them to return to our Dealership. In addition, we are concerned about our employees, both those represented by the Union and those who are not. If a strike takes place and service operations are impacted, other service staff may have hours reduced or even be laid off due to lack of work. While the Dealership will take all reasonable measures to avoid this, it may become necessary based on the circumstances.
We clearly understand that the uncertainty surrounding negotiations creates a level of anxiety for all employees at our NCDC member Dealers. In an effort to answer some of the fundamental questions relating to this matter, we have prepared these responses to Frequently Asked Questions ("FAQs"). If you have further questions, please contact your Supervisor and we will be sure to get answers for you. We want to personally urge everyone to stay calm and professional, and maintain our focus on safety and the customer as the strike continues. That is the very best way to preserve job security for all of us. Thank you in advance for your cooperation and focus.
Q1. When did the Local 701 contract expire?
A. The contract with the Union - which is known as the Standard Automotive Agreement (the blue book) - expired on Monday, July 31 at midnight.
Q2. Is the Union required to go on strike if the Dealers and the Union do not reach agreement on a new contract before midnight on July 31st?
A. No. The Union is not required to call a strike just because the contract expires. While the Union and its members have a right to go on strike after the contract expires, they also may elect to continue to report to work as usual. It is up to the Union and its members to make that decision.
Q3. If there is a strike, will the Dealership still operate?
A. Yes. NCDC Dealers are fully prepared to maintain sales and service operations and continue to serve our customers during the strike, and have assembled the necessary resources and experience to do so. While we respect the Union's right to strike, NCDC Dealers must be in a position to continue to serve our customers with quality service. That is the only way to preserve job security for all of our employees into the future.
Q4. If there is a strike, will technicians represented by the Union be permitted to cross the picket line and report for work?
A. As stated above, if there is a strike, the Dealers' highest priority will be to maintain safety in and around the Dealership, and to maintain quality and timely service for our customers. If there is a strike, any employee may request to continue to report to work during the strike; that is the employee's right under applicable law. The final decision on this will depend on all of the circumstances that exist at the time the employee offers to cross the picket line and return to work. Having said that, the Union may have rules regarding Union membership and working during a Union-sanctioned strike that all Union members should check.
Q5. If I participate in a strike, what happens to my wages?
A. If you join a strike, you will not be paid by the Dealership. Also, employees on strike are not eligible for unemployment compensation benefits under Illinois law.
Q6. If I participate in a strike, what happens to my health benefits?
A. Health benefit contributions for strikers end immediately, but the benefits will continue for the number of "grace" weeks of coverage (to a maximum of four weeks) that each individual employee may have under the 701 Welfare Plan. This means that doctor, hospital, prescription drug and other health benefit coverages for you and your family may be interrupted at some point, depending on the duration of the strike. If coverage is interrupted, these benefits will not be continued unless you pay the full monthly COBRA premium on time every month to continue your current coverage, or obtain health benefits by other means.
Q7. If the Dealers and the Union do not reach agreement on a new contract before midnight on July 31st, will I be permitted to retire while there is no contract in place?
A. Yes, as long as you satisfy applicable eligibility requirements and conditions. You will be permitted to retire whether or not there is a strike, as long as you are otherwise eligible.
Q8. How long can a strike last?
A. There is no time limit on the potential duration of a strike. As one extreme example, the Union recently went on strike at another Chicago-area dealership, and the strike lasted for several months. Each employee is the best judge of their specific financial circumstances and how long they could stay out on strike without pay or benefits paid for by the Dealership.
Q9. Who makes the decision to strike?
A. The Union has a process by which members vote to authorize the Union to initiate or terminate a strike. You should familiarize yourself with the Union's strike vote process.