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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Chicago feels the effects of yet another strike


By Brennen Kliffmueller

Recently, Chicago saw about 400 drivers walk off the job and begin striking in protest of proposed labor contracts by the Northern Illinois Ready Mix and Materials Association. Part of the dispute came born of language in the proposed contract that would have eliminated seniority rights for the truck drivers – meaning those who have been working longer would no longer be granted preferential treatment. There is also dispute pertaining to verbally agreed upon terms that were not included in writing in the contract itself – the union feeling as if NIRMMA is reneging on certain agreements. The teamsters unions involved in this strike would be those representing the workers in Will County, Lake County, Kane County, and Dupage County, locals 179, 301, 330, and 673 respectively.

The old contract

The contract negotiations have in fact been ongoing since the beginning of the month when the contract expired. Between when workers walked off the job earlier this month and the expiration of the contract, the workers themselves had been working under an expired contract. The union has also complained of aggressive bargaining tactics utilized by NIRMMA and in addition to the strike has filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board. Thus far, the union has already rejected four proposals presented to them by the NIRMMA in an effort to resolve the strike.

The new terms

David Mashek, the president of the Northern Illinois Ready Mix and Materials Association – which represents Ozinga Ready Mix Concrete, Welsch Ready Mix, Prairie Materials and Coal City Redi-Mix – argues that the terms of the contract they have presented are very fair. They cite that the contract leads to a net increase in pay and benefits, with the total economic package (meaning the combination of wages plus benefits such as medical insurance) increases from $44.50 per hour to $47.15 per hour, with roughly $1.25 of this increase represented by the wages themselves. These numbers were calculated based on a 40-hour work week.

Will it work?

The association cites the fact that workers in Cook County have already ratified the proposal with 83% approval, and said in a released statement that they wish to see all employees treated fairly and given same compensation for doing the same level of work. This is in response to the concerns over the loss of seniority rights. They believe that, given that Cook County workers are working happily under the same terms, there is no reason the workers from other counties should be striking and they seem to sincerely believe the proposal to be fair.

Regardless of who is in the right of this particular strike, the effects are being felt already, with a local concrete replacement program in Darien (adjoining Chicago) being slowed down as a result of the strike. As a result, the said program has been delayed by two weeks, though the city is still taking orders for when the strike will be resolved and construction can actually begin. Hopefully, the labor dispute will be resolved soon, and those involved will be able to get back to work and continue to assist in the essential functions of transporting concrete.

About the author: This article was written by Brennen Kliffmueller. Brennen is a Chicago native that recently moved on down to the beautiful sunshine state to escape the freezing cold. He is a professional writer for DriverPhysicals.com. To read more of Brennen's work, visit his Google+.

Image license: Mindfrieze, CC BY-SA 2.0