Chicago-area concrete producers, engineers union reach tentative agreement to end strike

Dive Brief:

  • A weekslong concrete workers strike that has snarled some Chicago-area construction projects appears to have ended yesterday. The Local 150 chapter of the International Union of Operating Engineers announced last night it reached a tentative agreement with the Chicago Area Aggregate Producers Association. The 300-worker strike began June 7.
  • The union said pickets would come down and members employed by CAAPA would vote to ratify the agreement on Tuesday. The terms of the agreement have not been announced.
  • Earlier this summer, members of the union stopped work at 30 sites in Northern Illinois in response to alleged unfair labor practices by CAAPA members — which includes Lehigh Hanson, Vulcan Materials and Lafarge Holcim. The strike slowed the harvesting of aggregate materials like sand, gravel and crushed stone used in concrete production.

Dive Insight:

For some time, Chicago-area builders relied on their sand and gravel stockpiles, but a month into the strike, contractors had to turn to other states to find materials for jobsites. Though some contractors found ways to continue concrete work, other firms, including those working on IDOT projects, had to get creative with how they ordered and prioritized projects, Maria Castaneda, spokesperson for IDOT, told Construction Dive. That meant avoiding major pours, but still doing repair or electrical work.

The biggest effect has been on heavy highway construction and some high rises,” Dan Rosenberg, principal attorney at Chicago-based law firm Much Shelist, told Construction Dive. 

Rosenberg also said this was the longest strike related to construction in the Chicago area that he could recall in more than 10 years.

Union members rejected an earlier CAAPA offer on Sunday, saying the deal “substantially changed much of the language that both sides agreed to weeks ago in negotiations.”

This offer, which CAAPA said it believed to be fair, included a 14% salary increase over three years and continued payment of healthcare premiums and funding of benefit and retirement programs.

Hours before the announcement of a tentative agreement, Castaneda said it’d be impossible to predict when the strike would end.

“Things sometimes seem like there’s no end near and then two hours later things change,” Castaneda said.

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