- Operating Engineers 324 (OE324) in Michigan announced this week that it has ratified a new five-year highway, bridge and airport agreement with the Michigan Union Contractors Group, a new association of Michigan road contractors that has taken over as negotiating partner with OE324. This new accord will bring an end to the lockout of operating engineers, which is now in its eighth month.
- The new agreement meets union demands, which include a guarantee that subcontractors hired under the agreement comply with the same wages, terms and conditions as the general contractor, a provision which will discourage the use of low-paid workers from within and outside of the state; graduated wage increases; and increased investment in training and safety.
- “Together, we can now move forward doing what we do best — providing the most skilled workforce in the world to rebuild the infrastructure of Michigan, with fairness to both the employer and employees,” said Douglas W. Stockwell, OE324’s business manager. "The contract provides the stability that will assist contractors bidding for projects, and makes sure members receive fair compensation for their hard work.”
It was on Sept. 4 that negotiations with the Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association (MITA) failed, resulting in that group of contractors turning to the private sector for operating engineer replacements in order to keep construction moving along. The labor agreement between the two expired in June 2018, and OE324 resisted making a new deal with MITA. Union leaders said they wanted to negotiate directly with contractors.
The lockout began with a three-week work stoppage, according to The Detroit News, causing full or partial shutdowns on 89 Michigan DOT projects and 75 local jobs.
Successful negotiation of labor agreements, project-specific or otherwise, takes patience and finesse on both sides, or talks can devolve into the sort of standoff that Michigan contractors and OE324 endured for so many months.
After developer Related Cos. pushed back against signing a new project labor agreement with the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York (BCTC) for the second phase of its $25 billion Hudson Yards project in New York City, harsh words — and more importantly, lawsuits — began to fly from both sides. Related alleged that it had been cheated to the tune of $100 million by some unscrupulous unions that were party to the PLA for the first phase of the project, while the BCTC maintained that Related had engaged in union-busting efforts.
Finally, the two agreed to put aside their differences — no more lawsuits nor trash talking in the press — and negotiated a PLA with which both sides could live.