Construction workers are preparing to strike as soon as Thursday, which would bring road-building projects such as the repaving of the Eisenhower Expressway to a standstill.All I could think was that I hoped this wouldn't kill progress on my jobsite. The new construction of the project I'm currently building has been going swimmingly, after all. But we're digging and pouring grade beams this week, and that's pretty much all Operators and Laborers work in this town. With steel set to start swinging next week, I could ill afford a strike like this.
Contracts covering 15,000 Chicago-area heavy equipment operators and laborers expired June 1, but the two sides kept working in hopes of reaching a new agreement.
Talks broke down Monday, according to Local 150 of the International Union of Operating Engineers, the heavy-equipment operators’ union.
As I walked on site, I spoke to the concrete foreman, and sure enough, the strike is on, and sooner than Crain's reported. Non-federal workers at O'Hare are reportedly out the door today, with highway workers to follow tomorrow. Operators are set to leave my site today at noon. Laborers are set to picket asphalt plants today, and redi-mix (concrete) plants tomorrow.
The timing of the strike leaves me with the slim hope that this is a strong-arm "let's wreck the 4th of July weekend" kind of move. The news from Crain's, however, leaves me with a feeling of mild dread that this may linger for some time.
Companies have offered a 1% increase in overall wages and benefits over the next three years, and workers are seeking 5%, a source familiar with negotiations said.This news follows the recent strike by the Ironworkers and Teamsters in northwest Indiana, which the Crain's article linked also discusses, and the recent vote to strike by the Plumbers in Chicago. The Plumbers, for all I have been able to tell, have not actually struck (they've kept on coming for my underground work anyway), and, per the PCA website, have continued to negotiate.
“We’re not seeking to unrealistically increase wages in this difficult economic climate,” says James Connolly, business manager for the Laborers’ District Council of Chicago. “But what they have come to the table with represents a significant cut to our members and jeopardizes the stability of our fringe benefit funds. And we will not settle for that.”
Tom Nordeen, chairman of the Mid-America Regional Bargaining Assn., which is representing the companies, said, "Despite the economic conditions, the locals of the Chicagoland region are asking for significant raises well in excess of cost-of-living and a continuation of their traditional rich health and retirement plans."
My personal thought on the matter is pretty simple. As Crain's outlines, "Negotiations are playing out during one of the worst recessions ever in the construction industry, with unemployment topping 20% and construction companies reeling financially." Heaven forbid we all just keep working, guys. Suck it up.
UPDATE: WGN reports that the strike vote is to take place tonight, and that picketing taking place today was in advance of the vote. My excavator's operator left today at noon, along with all the laborers from both the excavation and concrete crews. WGN says 8,000 out of 15,000 workers are expected to turn out for the vote tonight. Here's hoping they vote to keep working, instead of making everything worse for everybody.
JWF links. Thanks!