Tentative deal offers new chance to end construction strike

Local 150 of the International Union of Operating Engineers said members will vote Tuesday on an offer that could put about 300 members back on the job after a seven-week walkout.

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Members of Local 150 of the International Union of Operating Engineers display picket signs while on strike at a Lehigh Hanson site in McCook.

Members of Local 150 of the International Union of Operating Engineers display picket signs while on strike at a Lehigh Hanson site in McCook.

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The union whose strike has disrupted road work around the region said Monday night it has reached a tentative agreement with three companies that produce construction material.

Members will decide Tuesday whether to ratify the agreement, said Ed Maher, communications director for Local 150 of the International Union of Operating Engineers. Maher said the latest agreement addresses concerns members expressed Sunday when they resoundingly voted down a prior offer.

About 300 members of Local 150 who operate heavy equipment have been on strike since June 7 against three companies that collectively operate 35 quarries. The companies—Lehigh Hanson, Vulcan Materials and Lafarge Holcim—produce sand, gravel and crushed stone needed for asphalt, concrete and other construction materials.

There was no immediate comment on behalf of the companies, which negotiate as members of the Chicago Area Aggregate Producers Association.

The strike has delayed routine summertime road work large and small. The head of the state’s Department of Transportation voiced his concern this month in a letter to the companies, citing the strike’s effect on major projects such as the Jane Byrne Interchange, plus work on Interstates 55 and 80.

Maher said Local 150 will end its picketing Monday night, pending the outcome of Tuesday’s vote. Members are asked to vote in person at noon at Local 150’s office in Countryside.

When the workers convened Sunday to vote on a prior deal, they were upset by language dealing with health insurance, Maher said. He said the tentative agreement addresses those concerns and provides slight improvement of proposed wage increases that the companies earlier outlined as 6% for the contract’s first year and 4% for each of the next two years.

Maher said the companies have prolonged the strike by cutting off talks for days on end and by offering contract language riddled with errors.

The companies have denied making matters worse. In a joint statement last week, they said, “We’ve been at the bargaining table 17 times, in addition to many other calls and private meetings. We remain committed to servicing our customers and limiting disruptions to infrastructure projects to the best of our ability.”

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