Mechanics at the Napleton Cadillac Dealership Continue to Strike


Jenna Grayson

When striking outside of the Napleton Cadillac Dealership, the mechanics have a display set up, which includes picket signs in front of the dealership (not pictured) and on the right side of the dealership and a an inflatable rat lawn ornament.

     Note: The mechanics interviewed for this story requested to not have their real names used so that their current employers couldn’t blame any specific individuals for the ongoing strike.

      For those who have driven down Libertyville’s “Mile of Cars” on Milwaukee Avenue recently, they may have noticed an unusual occurrence: mechanics on strike.

      Mechanics at chains of Napleton Auto Group Dealerships have been on strike since Aug. 1 and were striking from the hours of 6:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the weekdays and from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays.

      The above dates and times are all according to Luke, a General Motors world,-class technician and journeyman who is currently striking against the Napleton Cadillac dealership, where he and the other striking mechanics were employed.

      The striking mechanics are currently represented by the Automobile Mechanics’ Local 701 Union, which negotiates insurance policies, pension funds and other industry protections for auto-industry employees. A new union contract was last put into place on Oct. 25, 2016, which updated union benefits, such as long-term and short-term disability and insurance policies.

      The Cadillac dealership acquired new owners on June 20 of this year. Both the Local 701 Union and Napleton Auto Group did not respond to requests for comment.

      The majority of the mechanics employed at Napleton Auto Group have been working there for more than 20 years. Luke claimed that the last time that he and the other mechanics received a raise for their technician class was in 2008.

      Gene, who is also a world-class technician employed at the Napleton Cadillac Dealership, said that they’re striking for “fair pay.” Luke added that “part of [the strike] is about the money, but part of it is about principle, too.”

      An additional prompt for the Napleton mechanics to strike was the corporate “greed” they felt. Mechanics think the companies just “want to keep making more money and pay out less and less…We’re just trying to get better contracts,” Gene explained.

      Luke added, “It’s us, the technicians, the little guys that are making less and less [money]…And it’s the manufacturers, the big wigs [that are] making more and more money.”

      Mechanics employed by Napleton Auto Group are looking to negotiate to raise their minimum guarantee of a work week up to 40 hours, a raise of their hourly wages and pay for their hourly work instead of book time. A mechanic’s book time is how much a mechanic makes for their work, which is based on however long the job book says it takes to complete a task. For example, if the job book says that the task takes an hour to complete and the procedure takes them an hour and a half, they only get paid for one hour.

      Luke stated that the Napleton Cadillac Dealership that he and his fellow mechanics are striking against makes $160 an hour on labor rate while the mechanics are getting paid $35 an hour, and the Napleton dealership is claiming that the company isn’t making enough money.

      To further clarify how the auto industry works, Luke helped to describe the apprenticeship program, which begins after someone has graduated from vocational school and is first employed as a mechanic and given an estimated hourly wage of $19-20 an hour. The program originally lasted four years under a contract before 2008 but was changed to a maximum of eight years following the new contract. After the program is completed, the apprentice would then become a journeyman and their starting hourly wage would be upped to $32.35.

      Now, Luke and the other mechanics are trying to return to the former situation, where the apprenticeship program would remain a “four to five-year maximum deal” because of the concern that vocational school graduates won’t “start making serious money until they’re 30 years old.”

      Luke said that “[the mechanics and I have] gotten a lot of support from a lot of local people here in Libertyville.” He and his fellow striking mechanics have had “people stopping by, dropping off food, offering their support…We’re getting a lot of support from traffic driving down Milwaukee Avenue — people honking their horns and waving.”

      Luke, Gene, and the other striking mechanics are hoping to go back to work “as soon as possible,” but they’re striking “for [their] beliefs and [their] rights…until [they] get a proposal [from the Napleton dealership] that is acceptable.”

      “It’s not that we all want to be out here,” Luke explained. “[The strike is] affecting everyone, but we’re all holding strong and hoping for the best. It’s been a rough six weeks, but we’ve [handled] the adversity and all of their scare tactics and everything that [the dealership] can throw at us.”