Mechanics uion strike continues to affect local dealerships

  • Written by Dermot Connolly

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Photo by Dermot Connolly

Auto mechanics Steve Tracy (from left), union steward Eli Triantafilis, Scott Ruckman, Joe Wozze and Roman Stecko took a brief break from picketing Shirey Cadillac, 10125 S. Cicero Ave., Oak Lawn, on Friday to talk about the issues behind the strike by Local 701 that began Aug. 1.


The strike by Automobile Mechanics Union Local 701 is into its seventh week, and there is no end in sight following the decision Monday by members to reject the latest offer by the New Car Dealer Committee.

Mark Bilek, director of communications with the Chicago Automobile Trade Association, said the strike involves about 1,700 technicians employed at the 129 Chicago-area dealerships that belong to the New Car Dealer Committee.

He said there are 420 new-car dealers in the Chicago area, so about one-third are affected by the strike, including several in Oak Lawn and nearby communities. At many of those dealerships, without their mechanics on staff, only oil changes and other minor work is being done.

According to Bilek, no new negotiations are currently scheduled, following the decision to reject the latest offer.

Union steward Eli Triantafilis and several co-workers put down their picket signs outside Shirey Cadillac, 10125 S. Cicero Ave. in Oak Lawn, last Friday to share their views on the work stoppage that began Aug. 1, when their previous contract ended.

Prior to the vote on Monday, they were optimistic that the latest offer would be acceptable. But “the devil is in the details,” said Triantafilis, who has been working at the same location for nearly 39 years.

“One offer was thrown at us (last Wednesday), but that was rejected, too,” he added.

“The big thing is uncompensated time,” said the union steward, explaining that the mechanics are only guaranteed to be paid for 34 hours of work each week, but the jobs often take longer than that, so they end up working without pay.

The most recent offer rejected on Monday would have guaranteed 35 hours of work per week. But the mechanics are looking for 40 hours.

“They’re totally unrealistic (about factory-set job times),” said Triantafilis.

“With these computers, it takes longer than people think to diagnose a problem,” he added. “And some of the problems are intermittent, which makes it harder to solve.”

“Some people think we can just plug the car into a machine and it will tell us everything that is wrong. But it is more complicated than that. The machines can tell you which system is not working, but nothing more than that,” said the union steward.

He and his co-workers, many of whom have also been working at the same dealership for decades, said the high number of recalls are causing problems as well. They said the times allotted for certain jobs to be done have actually been reduced, for no reason.

“It seems like Ford, GM and Chrysler are telling customers they can get all this work for free, and are trying to save money on the backs of the mechanics,” said Triantafilis.

Scott Ruckman, who has been working for Shirey for 36 years, noted that since the strike began, several car dealerships, including Rizza and McCarthy Ford, have separated from the NCDC and come to agreement with their mechanics.

Bilek said Tuesday that 29 dealerships had made separate contract agreements, allowing their mechanics to go back to work. But he said those agreements are in dispute and have not been approved by the National Labor Relations Board, because the member dealerships negotiated separately.

“The status of those contracts is in question,” said Bilek. “Technically, those employees are (picket) cross-overs.”

Macs dig 7th straight win over RedHawks

  • Written by Phil Arvia


Photo by Jeff Vorva

Mother McAuley hitting star Charley Niego (black shorts) joins the Mighty Macs’ fans in the postgame celebration of Tuesday’s 25-20, 25-17 win over Marist, which was ranked third in the country by USA Today/AVCA.

When Central Michigan-bound Savannah Thompson blasted a spike off the face of Mother McAuley sophomore defensive specialist Grace Niego, her big sister, Charley, had only one thing to say.

“Nice dig.”

Indeed, the ball came up off Grace’s left cheekbone, Charley eventually ending the point with one of her nine kills. And, amid a five-point, second-set run, McAuley was well on its way to a surprisingly easy 25-20, 25-17 win Tuesday over Marist in front of an estimated 2,000 fans in the packed Mighty Macs gym.

“That’s unusual,” Grace, who finished with seven digs, said of her facial save. “All I thought was, ‘Is it up?’

“It feels good when Charley says encouraging things to me. She’s been my role model.”

Grace was one of four sophomores to show well in a match with a RedHawks team that entered as the top-ranked team in the state in at least one poll, and No. 3 or 7 in the nation, depending on who you ask.

Amia Owolabi, a left-handed right-side hitter, finished with five kills, including a run-stifling rip to make it 22-16 after Marist rallied from nine points down to within five in the second set. Lexi Warfield served for five points in the second set. Alena Pedroza had five kills.

“I didn’t know how it was going to go,” McAuley coach Jen DeJarld said. “I have four sophomores I expect big things from, but I didn’t know if they were going to be able to handle the pressure of McAuley/Marist — the crowd, the noise. All four were so solid.”

Marist (9-1), which has now lost seven straight to the Mighty Macs (9-1), played from behind almost the entire night, last leading at 3-2 in the first set.

“Mentally, we were a lot stronger,” said Charley Niego, who added 14 digs to go with her team-high kill total. “We didn’t let the fans or anything get in our heads.” 

Maggie Meyer, who led Marist with 10 kills and 12 digs, insisted the crowd didn’t get in the RedHawks’ heads so much as their ears.

“I thought we needed to deal better with the crowd,” she said. “We couldn’t communicate as well with each other as we normally do, so we struggled a bit.”

Marist coach Jordan Vidovic suggested it was more than a bit — especially after seeing his team get off to a 9-0 start that included an upset of then top-ranked Minooka.

“Some of the stuff we’ve done real well just wasn’t there,” he said. “We didn’t get comfortable. We didn’t get settled.

“We didn’t mix it up enough on offense. We have a really dynamic offense and we didn’t use it. We just weren’t on our game.”

Did he think any of that owed to any alleged McAuley mystique?

“I really don’t,” he said. “It comes down to what we put on the court. They’re not the only big team we play. This was just a nice test for us early in the season.”

Grace Green added 10 digs for Marist and setter Molly Murphy had 22 assists. McAuley got 18 digs from Casey Macander and 23 assists and nine digs from Nancy Kane.

McAuley’s uptick came after a weekend of lineup juggling at the Louisville (Ky.) Invitational, where the Macs went 4-1 and won the Silver Championship. The Macs’ lone loss came to Mount Notre Dame (Ohio).

“They had a lot of offensive weapons that we had a hard time containing,” DeJarld said. “Overall, I was happy with the way we competed. We’re getting better every day and we are working hard to improve on the deficiencies that were exposed when we played such high-caliber competition.”

One such deficiency was Owolabi’s hitting.

“I haven’t had a lefty over there in a while,” DeJarld said. “She’d been having a hard time with her timing, but it came together tonight.”

Thanks to Owolabi grabbing Kane for some extra pre-game work.

“I pulled Nancy over for some extra time with her,” Owolabi said. “Today I showed Coach DeJarld what I can do — the team saw it, too.”


Volunteers are at heart of Neat Repeats' mission

  • Written by Joe Boyle

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Photo by Kelly White

Melissa Devlin (right), Crisis Center for South Suburbia's volunteer and training coordinator, takes applications from interested volunteers for Neat Repeats Resale shops at the Worth store on Aug. 24

Volunteers, whether their project is large or small, helps to improve the lives of others and have a positive impact on the world. The volunteers at the Neat Repeats Resale shops provide that helping hand

The shops, in both Orland Park and Worth, are owned and operated by the Crisis Center for South Suburbia. Total revenue from the shops provides funding for the Crisis Center for South Suburbia, which offers services for survivors of domestic violence.

Mary Lee Lockwood, of Palos Heights, has been a volunteer at Neat Repeats Resale for seven years.

“I started volunteering at Neat Repeats after retiring as a school administrator to give back to the mission of Crisis Center of South Suburbia,” Lockwood said. “I wanted to give back to an agency that supports women and children in crisis, and I really enjoy working with the dedicated volunteers and staff at Neat Repeats.”

The shops held a volunteer open house at the Worth location, 7026 W. 111th St., on Aug. 24 to gather more dedicated volunteers like Lockwood.

There were plenty of opportunities for volunteers, including fashion merchandising, customer service and processing donations. All volunteers will be required to work just one five hour shift a week in a fun retail environment, according to Neat Repeats. The shift will remain the same every week, and hours are flexible according to personal schedules. Applications were also accepted at the event for volunteers for the Orland Park location, 9028 W. 159th St.

This year, the Crisis Center of South Suburbia has helped over 1,000 women and children find a safe place to call home through the center’s residential services, hospital advocacy program, counseling services and teen dating violence prevention program.

The heart of what keeps these services alive is the volunteers, said Doreen Wolford, the regional manager for Neat Repeats Resale shops. She started out herself as a volunteer at the Worth location 17 years ago.

“I was on the PTA board in the Worth school district and we had a clothing drive,” said Holford, a Worth resident. “I knew Neat Repeats was in town and wanted to help. I met all of the volunteers and immediately knew this was something that I wanted to be a part of. It’s a great place to volunteer and donate.”

Over 200 dedicated and passionate volunteers have given over 40,000 hours to provide the funds to continue these much needed programs. The volunteers are mostly made up of women and girls, with the youngest volunteer at 13 years old and the oldest at 88.

“That’s what makes volunteering at Neat Repeats so unique.” Holford said. “We have such a wide age range of volunteers. There are not many opportunities out there where high school students can work alongside senior citizens. We find the best in every person who walks through the door.”

The shops are always looking for more volunteers.

Holford explained there is a need for volunteers because people are working more hours in their career fields and working longer than they use to in the past. For many residents, it is hard to dedicate time that you do not always have available.

“Giving your time is priceless,” Holford said. “I can promise all of our volunteers that they will feel better leaving for the day than they did when they first walked through the door. Volunteering gives you an inner strength that you wouldn’t have otherwise.”

Neat Repeats Resale’s volunteers agreed with Holford.

“People that volunteer are just really special human beings,” said Lois Stanciak, a Palos Heights resident and Neat Repeats volunteer for 14 years.

“I like that I know the proceeds are used wisely at the Crisis Center for the women and children,” said Oak Lawn resident Barb Hennessey, a volunteer for 19 years. “I’ve worked with amazing women throughout the years and I also get great bargains for myself and my family.”

The volunteers are what keep customers coming back, according to Christ Beele, the director for the Neat Repeats Resale shops.

“Neat Repeats is a very fun, supportive, empowering and welcoming atmosphere,” Beele said. “A lot of relations are built between our volunteers and our customers.”

Resembling upscale boutiques, the shops offer a large selection of women’s, junior’s, children’s and men’s clothing along with a variety of household items such as furniture, giftware, toys, books, antiques, collectible, shoes, purses and jewelry.

Neat Repeats originally opened in 1986 in Blue Island in 1986, but moved to Worth in 1993. The Orland Park location opened its doors in 2002. Items within the store are sold to the general public, but are available for clients of the Crisis Center free of charge.

Lipinski: Congress should pass bipartisan BRIDGE Act on DACA

  • Written by Staff Reports

In response to President Trump’s announcement that he will be ending DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) in six months, Cong. Dan Lipinski (D-3rd) is renewing his call for Congress to pass H.R. 496, the BRIDGE (Bar Removal of Individuals who Dream and Grow our Economy) Act, which he states would protect recipients of DACA from the threat of deportation.

Cong. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.), the author of the bill, has limited co-sponsorship by Democrats to those who could also gain the support of a Republican co-sponsor. Four months ago, Lipinski became only the 13th Democratic co-sponsor when he was able to bring on Republican Cong. Fred Upton (Mich.) as a supporter.

“President Trump had said that he would ‘deal with DACA with heart,’ but now it is up to Congress to act to protect these young immigrants,” said Lipinski. “Congress can do that by passing the bipartisan BRIDGE Act which would ensure that DACA recipients continue to be protected from deportation. I have always focused on bringing people together to solve problems, so earlier this year I proactively reached across the aisle to secure Rep. Upton’s support for this bill, which enabled me to also sign on as a cosponsor. I am hopeful that others join in this bipartisan effort to do what most Americans agree is the right thing to do.”

The BRIDGE Act would grant those eligible under DACA three years of legal protection. DACA provides temporary protection from removal -- as well as work authorization -- to people who were brought to the United States as children, as long as they register with the government, pay a fee, and pass a criminal background check. More than 752,000 individuals have received DACA authorization.

Under the BRIDGE Act, a current DACA recipient would receive provisional protected presence until the expiration date of his or her DACA status and could apply for continued protected presence prior to that expiration. Applicants would be required to pay a reasonable fee, undergo criminal background checks, and meet a number of eligibility criteria indicating that they came to the United States as minors, grew up in this country, have pursued an education, have not committed any serious crimes, and do not pose a threat to our country.

An individual’s provisional protected presence and employment authorization would be subject to revocation by the Department of Homeland Security if it is determined that the individual no longer meets the eligibility criteria. The BRIDGE Act would provide provisional protected presence and employment authorization for three years after the date of enactment of the legislation.

“The North American Institute for Mexican Advancement (NAIMA) understands that building support for immigration issues also requires the support of centrist legislators such as Cong. Dan Lipinski,” said NAIMA President Sergio Suarez. “After meeting with the Congressman, NAIMA applauds his endorsement of the Bridge Act in support of DACA youth. Lipinski’s support, along with his work to identify a Republican colleague to join as a co-sponsor of the bill, is a significant move in support of immigrant families.”

Beverage tax backlash keeps spilling over

  • Written by Joe Boyle

Opposition to the Cook County beverage tax has drawn support from some state legislators who believe the measure should be eliminated because it is unfair to taxpayers.

State Rep. Kelly Burke (D-36th) and state Rep. Frances Hurley (D-35th) are two local legislators who are co-sponsors of a bill to repeal the Cook County beverage tax.

But Worth Mayor Mary Werner said not so fast. While the House and Senate could vote to repeal the ordinance, the Worth mayor wants to focus on getting some Cook County Board of Commissioners to change their vote.

‘The sad truth is that we have Worth shoppers that are already going out of Cook County to shop,” Werner said. “And they are not only shopping for beverages, but for food, too. We are losing sales along 111th Street. Fairplay and Family Dollar, they are losing money.”

Werner has signed up to provide testimony at the next Cook County Board of Commissioners meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 13. Her goal is to persuade commissioners who have voted with Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle for the beverage tax dating back to last November to change their vote. The ordinance went into effect last month.

The Worth mayor supports Commissioner Sean Morrison’s (R-17th) opposition to the tax. HIs district takes in portions of her village west of Harlem Avenue. But Commissioner Edward Moody (D-6th), whose district runs east of Harlem Avenue, supports the tax. So does Commissioner John Daley (D-11th). Werner is optimistic that her appearance before the board will sway some of these commissioners.

“This is just bad,” Werner said. “This is a terribly oppressive tax. “Opponents of the bill believe we should just go back to a zero budget and start over again.”

Oak Lawn Mayor Sandra Bury understands the concerns of Preckwinkle, who has a budget shortfall. But she also hears the concerns of local businesses and believes that something has to be done. Local chambers, including the Oak Lawn Chamber of Commerce, have sent a letter to Preckwinkle demanding that she eliminate the tax that they say hurts working families and is chasing shoppers out of Cook County.

“Shopping patterns have been changing because of the tax,” Bury said. “I heard one person say that a woman from Homewood now goes shopping in Indiana. I personally reached out to Commissioner Daley and Commissioner Moody on this matter.”

Bury hopes to have conversations with both commissioners soon.

“I’m confident they will do the right thing,” Bury said. “The thing is the money is definitely needed (by Cook County).

“They are in a tough bind,” added Bury. “It is very challenging for businesses. But right now, Cook County has the largest outward migration out of the area. We need to do something.”

And that is why Burke supports a measure to repeal the beverage tax.

“Many people enjoy drinking a cold soda or a glass of orange juice in the morning. I think it’s unfair to tax them on this everyday grocery item,” Burke said. “I believe this tax will do nothing except force more families to do their shopping outside of Cook County and cost our area jobs.”

The Cook County Board taxes all sweetened beverages including diet sodas, fruit and vegetable juices, certain coffees and teas, flavored waters and sports drinks at the rate of one cent per ounce. The county’s tax raises the average cost of a 2-liter soda by 67 percent, and raises the average cost of a bottle of fruit juice or iced tea by 43 percent.

Proponents of Preckwinkle’s tax state that raising the price of sugared beverages will cut down on child obesity, diabetes and other diseases that can hamper children. Opponents of the new tax said it was only made to raise revenue for the county.

Preckwinkle mostly recently gained the attention of the wealthy former mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, who has been paying for commercials in the Chicago area in support of the tax and emphasizing the harm sugared drinks could have on children.

Not every local municipality has been hit with complaints by consumers. Palos Hills Mayor Gerald Bennett said that he has not been receiving any angry calls as of yet.

“Because of the limited revenue we have from some of these retailers or restaurants, we have not heard anything on this,” Bennett said.

But the village of Worth is another matter.

“I’ve reached out to Sen. (Bill) Cunningham and told him I would appreciate it if the state of Illinois does not take any further action until the Board of Commissioners vote on the beverage tax,” Werner said. “It is very important for our residents to know where our commissioners stand on this issue before anything else is done.”