Michigan association's impasse with union equipment operators stalls hundreds of jobsites
- The Michigan Infrastructure & Transportation Association (MITA), a trade association that negotiates and manages collective bargaining agreements on behalf of some of its members, ordered on Tuesday a lockout of approximately 2,000 operating engineers on jobsites in Detroit and elsewhere in the state after union and association officials failed to come to an agreement on a new contract, according to Crain's Detroit Business. The absence of those workers, who operate heavy equipment, has brought project activity to a virtual standstill.
- The association represents more than 40 contractors that perform road work in the state and that hire workers through Operating Engineers Local 324. Mike Nystrom, executive vice president of MITA, told Crain's that the "defensive lockout" is meant to motivate the union back into negotiations and that it was also in reaction to "disruptive" union acts like picketing at least one member's jobsite.
- Local 324 officials said they want to negotiate with each contractor rather than with MITA because the association has little to offer union members. Nystrom said the lockout has affected hundreds of jobsites but that some contractors have elected to hire nonunion subcontractors and out-of-state operators in order to keep their projects moving forward.
Operating engineers in Seattle weren't locked out, but they elected to go on strike last month, also shutting down work on many jobsites in western Washington state after failed contract negotiations with the Associated General Contractors of Washington. The International Union of Operating Engineers announced that more meetings this week with the AGCW yielded no progress and that they have negotiated contracts directly with more than 30 contractors so far using the union's Master Labor Agreement of Western Washington.
The AGCW responded that on Sept. 4 it offered Local 302 members "the largest package increase" yet as part of the latest contract negotiations and that only "smaller contractors" have chosen to sign on to the union's master agreement. AGCW officials added that they are ready to continue talks and craft a deal with Local 302.
Americans' support of unions topped out in the early to mid 20th century, according to Gallup polls, before falling to an all-time low in 2009. However, in the latest from Gallup, union approval is now at 62% in the U.S., up from 56% just two years ago. What could perhaps be more telling is that 39% of those polled thought unions should have more influence versus 29% who responded that unions should have less influence. This increase in pro-union sentiment is in contrast to union membership, which has decreased from its 1954 peak of 28% of American workers to approximately 11% today.
According to the most recent available data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the private construction industry held approximately 14.7% union members in 2017, up from 13.9% in 2016.
- Crain's Detroit Business Union lockout under way at road construction sites
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