Gravel workers ratify deal after strike that delayed suburban, state projects
A strike by the workers who produce gravel and other essential materials for roadwork that deflated the summer construction season has ended after seven weeks.
International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150 members ratified an agreement with three aggregate companies Tuesday. The deal includes a minimum pay raise of 16.14% over three years, Local 150 officials said.
The pact comes after a dramatic few days.
Workers rejected an offer Sunday, but union negotiators reached a tentative agreement late Monday night that triggered the removal of pickets.
About 300 union members hit the picket lines June 7 at 35 Chicago-area facilities owned by Lehigh Hanson, Vulcan Materials Co. and Holcim, also known as the Chicago Area Aggregate Producers Association.
The strike caused shortages in vital supplies and had a ripple effect on multiple state and suburban road projects.
"The Illinois Department of Transportation is grateful that both sides have come to an agreement," agency spokeswoman Maria Castaneda said. "The department is evaluating lasting impacts to our schedules on a project-by-project basis, working with contractors and opening up work zones where applicable."
A CAAPA spokeswoman said the group was pleased Local 150 members "voted in favor of the three-year contract we negotiated in partnership with union leaders. The contract ensures the health, safety and protection of our valued employees. We look forward to welcoming them back to work."
Local 150 President James Sweeney said in a statement that "today's agreement means that these men and women's rights will be protected at work, that they will be able to keep up with increasing costs, and that they will be able to continue to provide health care for their families. That is what unions stand for."
Sweeney is also a board director at the Illinois tollway.
The striking workers are heavy equipment operators who, among various duties, break up rocks at quarries to produce sand, crushed stone and gravel that are vital for asphalt and concrete.
Along with massive state infrastructure work, repaving and other street repairs in towns including Kildeer, Wheaton, Elk Grove Village and Deerfield were put on ice.
For Naperville, "it completely shut down projects in progress, like the North Aurora Road expansion and it delayed other projects from starting altogether," Mayor Steve Chirico said.
"The city made a strategic decision to truck in materials from outside of the area to keep the downtown streetscapes project moving forward and on time. However, I believe we will go over budget as a result."
In Mount Prospect, the village's "resurfacing program was about 70% complete when the strike occurred," Public Works Director Sean Dorsey said.
"We have had no resurfacing activity (pavement removal or paving) since the strike occurred. About 30% of the streets targeted for this year need to be completed. We still expect to resurface all of the streets in the year's program," Dorsey said. He added the village's paving contractor is expected to resume work Wednesday.
In Buffalo Grove, many projects were delayed as contractors scrambled to find different sources of gravel or materials. "It is estimated that the jobs and material shortage will take about two weeks to be fully available but ending the strike was good news," Village Engineer Darren Monico said.
According to a survey of Illinois Road and Transportation Builders Association members, the strike resulted in layoffs of about 800 workers from various trades, CEO Michael Sturino said. Builders reported they were doubtful if close to 130 projects could be completed by the end of the season.
The union had filed an unfair-labor practices complaint with the National Labor Relations Board.
The new agreement included more than 20 language changes plus increases in benefits.
• Daily Herald staff writers Steve Zalusky, David Oberhelman, Chris Placek, Katlyn Smith and Mick Zawislak contributed to this report.