Equipment operators end 7-week strike affecting road projects

Members of Local 150 of the International Union of Operating Engineers ratify a three-year agreement with three companies that produce construction material.

SHARE Equipment operators end 7-week strike affecting road projects
Construction on the Jane Byrne Interchange west of downtown.

A seven-week strike affecting road projects throughout the Chicago area ended Tuesday.

Sun-Times file

Members of the International Union of Operating Engineers ratified a three-year contract Tuesday, ending a seven-week strike that has curtailed road projects throughout northeast Illinois.

Ed Maher, communications director for the union’s Local 150, said members unanimously approved the contract in a show-of-hands vote. The members met at the local’s office in Countryside.

Maher said the workers will receive raises of at least 16.14% over the life of the contract. He said the agreement includes language that addresses worker concerns about health insurance.

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.

The companies negotiate as members of the Chicago Area Aggregate Producers Association. A spokesperson for the association said it was pleased union members ratified the contract. “The contract ensures the health, safety and protection of our valued employees. We look forward to welcoming them back to work,” the spokesperson said.

By curtailing essential supplies, the strike disrupted numerous road projects. In early July, the head of the state’s Department of Transportation discussed the strike’s impact on state-funded road work in a letter to the three companies urging them to make a deal.

Commenting on the settlement, the department said Tuesday it is “evaluating lasting impacts to our schedules on a project-by-project basis, working with contractors and opening up work zones where applicable.” It has cited delays in work affecting the Jane Byrne Interchange and on Interstates 55 and 80.

Local 150 members rejected a prior contract proposal Sunday, citing concerns about language dealing with health insurance. Monday, the three companies sent a letter to legislative leaders outlining the terms of their offer, which included annual wage hikes of 6%, 4% and 4%.

“The offer includes our generous, ongoing commitment to pay 100% of the health insurance premiums for our employees and their families, the retirement enhancement fund and the retiree medical savings plan,” the companies said in the letter. “We also continue to fund a very generous defined benefit pension plan so that our employees can retire with dignity. To our knowledge, these benefits alone exceed what is currently offered in many other private and public sector jobs.” 

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