CLICK BELOW to hear Jack Hall’s interview with Mike Nystrom from MITA.
CLICK BELOW to hear Jack Hall’s interview with Dan McKernan from the Operating Engineers.
Some road workers are locked out of the job Tuesday morning, including on nearly a dozen Upper Peninsula projects, with one being the Escanaba River Bridge project. Operating Engineers 3-24 Communications Director Dan McKernan says heavy equipment operators, technicians and engineers were “involuntarily laid off.”
The US-41 project between Ishpeming and Negaunee; the US-2 project between Gladstone and Rapid River; M-94 repairs in Alger and Schoolcraft Counties; the M-35 Cedar River Bridge project in Menominee County; are among those affected; along with the Escanaba River Bridge project.
Below are some recent statements on both sides of the issue..
The following is a recent statement from Michael Nystrom, executive vice president of the Michigan Infrastructure & Transportation Association (MITA).
“After refusing to hold a single meeting to discuss a new contract, which expired June 1, MITA has decided to hold a defensive lockout of Operating Engineers, Local 324 (OE). This is a result of the coercive, disruptive and unlawful activities the union has spearheaded against MITA contractors. Work will continue on some construction projects across the state, and may be halted on others. MITA has notified Michigan Department of Transportation Director Kirk Steudle of the potential impact to construction projects.
The lockout will end when the union ratifies the industry proposed contract. Under the contract that expired June 1, the average OE worker was earning $55.67 per hour in wages and benefits. MITA is advancing a new proposal to increase wages and benefits by $8 an hour or 14.4 percent over five years to $63.67 per hour.
Any assertion that this defensive lockout is a “layoff,” is an attempt to misconstrue the situation by leadership at the OE. The safety of Michigan residents and motorists is industry’s top concern, so we will prioritize shutting down job sites with the safety of drivers in mind.”
In addition to refusing to meet, Operating Engineers, Local 324 has engaged in a number of disruptive and coercive tactics, including:
- Not certifying registered apprentices for MITA represented contractors
- Redirecting and coercing employees away from MITA contractors
- Not providing additional operating engineer employees when requested by contractors
- Blocked the release of millions of dollars that have been paid by construction companies to cover the workers’ fringe benefits, threatening the benefits these employees have earned
- Self-authoring a new road agreement that was not negotiated with other parties and establishing it as the “only option to end this labor dispute”
- Initiated strike activity against select contractors
“MITA has done everything within its power to maintain labor peace and stability, however we’ve been forced into taking this action by the union. Getting these employees back to work is a top priority. We look forward to hearing from the union on any interest they may have to ending this lockout.”
The following is a recent statement from Operating Engineers 324 about the Escanaba River Bridge project:
(OE324) is disappointed, if not surprised, by the actions taken by Zenith Tech around the Escanaba Bridge.
Zenith Tech terminated their contract with OE324 on June 1, chose not to negotiate on a new agreement, and have since refused to acknowledge the ratified agreement signed by other contractors – including by firms working on the bridge project. Instead, they have postponed work, brought in out-of-state workers, and issued an inflammatory, factually inaccurate statement to cover their own lack of integrity to their employees and the community at large.
Completing this project has been of utmost importance to OE324 – last year, we opened a training site in Gladstone, cementing our ongoing dedication to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Our own members have been impacted by the long duration of the project, and many others have worked on the bridge uninterrupted for contractors who kept the best interests of their employees and residents alike in mind. OE324 has taken no action to “thwart” efforts to complete the work. OE324 has followed the rules dictated to them by their legal counsel and bylaws, which includes not dispatching members to work for a contractor who has no agreement or contract in place.
We sincerely hope that Zenith Tech recognizes that there are two sides to a partnership, and that the residents of the Upper Peninsula and OE324 members – the safest, best trained construction professionals – deserve better.