Following nine hours of negotiations on July 19, Chicago contractors and unions reached a tentative three-year agreement on wages and health care benefits that would end a three-week strike.

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The International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150 and Laborers’ District Council of Chicago & Vicinity reached an agreement with owners’ representative Mid American Regional Bargaining Association that includes a 3.25 percent annual increase in wages and health care benefits for three years.

The unions originally petitioned for annual increases of 5.3 percent for three years. In a press release, Local 150 said the pact would mean that pickets are “taken down immediately.”

MARBA spokesman Lissa Christman says her group is pleased with the result.

“It was a difficult negotiation with good results and we look forward to a mutually beneficial and productive relationship going forward,” Christman says. According to an MARBA press release, this is the union’s lowest increase in 10 years.

The deal follows a July 16 announcement by the Illinois Tollway that it would begin suspending work on three major roadway improvement projects if an agreement was not reached by July 22.

Affected projects included the Edens Spur (I-94) Roadway and Bridge Rehabilitation Project, the Veterans Memorial Tollway (I-355) Resurfacing and Bridge Repair Project, and bridge repairs on the Tri-State Tollway (I-294)/Reagan Memorial Tollway (I-88) Interchange.

“Our customers who pay to drive the Edens Spur and I-355 on a daily basis should not have to continue to tolerate traffic congestion based on construction that we could not reasonably expect to be done quickly,” Illinois Tollway Executive Director Kristi Lafleur said in a press release

Since the strike began July 1, an estimated 15,000 Chicago-area construction workers have been affected and 300 Illinois Department of Transportation projects delayed.

Other projects across Chicago and surrounding counties feeling the pinch included the $95 million resurfacing of the Eisenhower Expressway and an $87.7 million high school renovation project in Naperville, Ill. By Sam Barnes

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