Strike halts construction projects

June 30, 2010 (CHICAGO) Machine operators from International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150 voted to strike at the organization's Countryside headquarters.

" This is for the union brothers and sisters," said Leon Payton, union member.

"This was clearly a move to bust the union," said Michael Gerard Harper.

"Hopefully they'll give us what we want," said John Echlin, union member.

IUOE Local 150 is one of two unions now on strike. The leaders say this strike is not based on a contract offer-- but on unfair labor practices. They say the group of contractors negotiating with the unions, Mid America Regional Bargaining Association (MARBA), walked out of talks on Monday. MARBA, however, says they did not. Technically, the union says that is the main reason for the strike.

"There negotiations have not been in good faith," said James Sweeney, president of IUOE Local 150.

"We see no reason for a strike. We are going back negotiating on the 7th. It was mutually agreed upon yesterday," said Lissa Christman, MARBA.

"It was a dictated date. They walked out and told us that would be the date they were coming. If they're saying that, it's an untruth," said Sweeney.

The strike will impact hundreds of construction projects from the Ritz Carlton on Michigan Avenue to the Eisenhower Expressway. All work is expected to stop at 12 a.m. Thursday. IDOT reports that the strike will impact 300 projects across the collar counties.

"You know we're right in the heart of construction season - it's the beginning of Summer - there's still a lot of work to be done so we're just hopeful over the next couple days there will be a different outcome," said Marisa Kollias, IDOT spokesperson.

The second union involved is the Laborers District Council of Chicago. They are already on the picket lines, targeting asphalt and construction companies.

With the two unions combined, 15,000 workers are expected to be on strike at midnight.

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