Seven weeks after it started, a strike that hampered road construction in northeastern Illinois has ended with quarry workers approving a new contract with materials producers Lehigh Hanson, Vulcan Materials and LafargeHolcim.
About 300 members of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150 voted unanimously July 25 to accept the contract that calls for workers to receive a minimum 16.14% economic increase over the three-year life of the agreement.
The contract with the Chicago-area quarry companies, ratified on July 26, includes more than 20 language changes covering such areas as job classifications, additional pay opportunities, safety, equipment and tool allowances, and per diem changes.
Local 150 spokesman Ed Maher said the strike delayed road work throughout northeastern Illinois.
“The strike, as it went on, shut down the asphalt and concrete industries in northern Illinois. That was never the intent, but it was a result of it,” he said.
Maher said the strike started because of unfair labor practices such as unilateral changes to collective bargaining agreements and threatening members against going to union meetings.
He said input from outside parties helped lead to the end of the work stoppage.
“The eyes of the state were on us—construction companies, local governments, state legislators,” he said. “They reminded both sides that the state has enormous investment in infrastructure and that the labor dispute had to be negotiated on both sides.”
In a letter to state legislators, members of the Chicago Area Aggregate Producers Association said the “union is receiving a generous wage increase and benefit allocations.”
The group disputed Maher's characterization that it dragged its feet in the matter.
Its employers "have been actively working to resolve this strike,” the letter noted, adding that the association "tried to engage with Local 150 representatives two months prior to expiration of the current contract, in March of this year, but union leaders refused to engage in any bargaining until after the contract expired."
The association added that an offer in April of a short-term extension of the existing contract while negotiations were underway also "was rejected by Local 150."
“This strike, loss of wages, and all associated project delays could have been avoided,” the members added.
Local 150 represents 23,000 workers in Illinois, Indiana and Iowa in construction and related industries, including material production, heavy equipment operation, concrete pumping, steel mill service, slag production and public works, among others.