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Stalemate in Chicago Strike Delays Key Projects

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A meeting between unions and construction owners in the Chicago area inched forward but failed to produce a resolution as talks were rescheduled for July 19.

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Meanwhile, an estimated 15,000 Chicago-area construction workers aren’t working and 300 Illinois Department of Transportation projects have been delayed as unions and construction owners work to resolve the strike that began July 1.

Workers with the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150 and Laborers’ District Council of Chicago and Vicinity are petitioning for a total wage increase of 15 percent over three years to offset the rising cost of health care, says Ed Maher, spokesman for the Local 150. The unions are also asking for a 5 percent increase in health benefit contributions.

Mid-America Regional Bargaining Association, which represents the construction owners, originally offered a 3.25 percent hike over three years and a 1 percent increase in health care contributions.

“They came up a little on their number and we came down a little on our number (during the last meeting on July 12),” Maher says. “But we’re very disappointed by the lack of urgency on their part.”

Workers say their hours have been reduced from an average of 1,600 annually to 1,000, and Maher says rising health care costs of 10 to 12 percent a year are hurting members.

MARBA says that workers are earning fair wages, with salaries ranging from $35 to $45 an hour. .

Meanwhile, projects across Chicago and surrounding counties continue to feel the pinch, including the $95 million resurfacing of the Eisenhower Expressway and an $87.7 million high school renovation project in Naperville, Ill.

Josh Kauffman, a spokesman for the Illinois Department of Transportation, says the scheduling of the affected projects will be re-evaluated after a resolution is reached.

“The determination of when these delayed projects will be completed can’t occur until this matter is resolved,” Kauffman says.
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