Melissa Walsh

Lockout halts road work

Grosse Pointe News | September 20th, 2018 | News section


Lockout halts road work By Melissa Walsh

Grosse Pointe Woods and City — Reconstruction of Stanhope Street in the Woods and resurfacing in the City are stopped until resolution emerges between the Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association and the International Union of Operator Engineers Local 324.

Florence Cement Co. had begun both projects when union workers were ordered by MITA not to report to work after Labor Day. They had been working without a contract since June 1.

The lockout by MITA — a construction trade association of more than 500 Michigan companies — affects more than 150 road projects statewide.

“My understanding of the lockout is that the owners would like to have one contract for all the operators and the union for the operators would like to have individual contracts for each company,” said Woods Department of Public Works Director Frank Schulte.

Reconstruction involves removing all layers of a road to repair the base before replacing layers of cement and asphalt. The process is labor intensive and a nuisance to residents on a street undergoing the work.

Resurfacing involves replacing asphalt and repairing the cement layer, curbs and approaches, typically requiring eight to 10 weeks.

In the City, cement work on curbs and driveway approaches are still being worked on.

Florence was scheduled to begin Woods resurfacing projects on Lochmoor, Anita and Brys this month.

“We had a ‘progress meeting’ Wednesday, Sept. 12, for road construction work,” explained Schulte. “Both sides are still not talking. Due to the ongoing labor dispute, all unionized construction work has been shut down. Florence expects to be able to complete the project as proposed if the lockout is over by next week. If the dispute is not resolved by the end of the month, work will likely be postponed to the spring of 2019.”

Thursday, Sept. 13, Gov. Rick Snyder released a statement calling the union and contractors to find immediate resolution. He said he requested the Attorney General’s office “to provide guidance on whether the situation can legally be classified as a labor dispute.”

MITA Executive Vice President Mike Nystrom said, “Since the governor reached out, we put out a statement that the industry is more than willing to talk.”

IUOE Local 324 representative Dan McKernan said the local has a master agreement in place for all contractors. He said MITA wants to replace the union’s contract.

“That’s what it really comes down to. We really don’t have any use for MITA. We like working directly with the contractors,” he said.

Added McKernan, “This entire move by (MITA) was disappointing, but not surprising.”

Responding to reports MITA offered workers $8 more per hour, McKernan said, “They can offer all the money they want to, but when they’re working to send our jobs elsewhere, what kind of goodwill is that?”

McKernan said the lockout “is being driven by a small group of (non-union) contractors with deep pockets.

“MITA directed to get the projects done at all costs,” McKernan said.

McKernan explained Local 324 workers were working without a contract in good faith since June, then told by MITA not to report to work after Labor Day.

“We have a great partnership with these contractors,” he said. “It’s just been the association that’s been the problem.”

In the meantime, contractors are responsible for the safety of roadways where work has stopped.

For residents on Stanhope, Schulte said, “Florence will maintain the temporary gravel and ensure the work zone is safe during the labor dispute downtime. In the event that Stanhope cannot be completed in 2018, Florence will subcontract concrete maintenance to provide safe passage on the street.”

City of Grosse Pointe City Manager Peter Dame said Florence management will clean up the rights-of-way on Neff and Notre Dame.

“Any projects that have been affected by this lockout have been maintained in a very clean and safe manner,” Nystrom said.

Because the Park is using a non-union contractor, it began its yearly resurfacing Monday, Sept. 17, and Farms City Manager Shane Reeside said the Farms has not experienced any delays with its work.

— Anthony Viola contributed to this report.