Contractors end lockout of Mich. union equipment operators

Me Photo Headshot
Updated Oct 3, 2018

Road work ahead construction signA lockout of union equipment operators and technicians by a Michigan contractors group has ended and work will resume on major road projects throughout the state.

Gov. Rick Snyder announced an end to the lockout September 27 after the Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association and the Operating Engineers 324 agreed to continue working throughout the 2018 construction season under the terms of a contract that expired in June.

Snyder said a long-term solution between the two groups could be worked out after the construction season ends. At one point, Snyder had considered calling in National Guard equipment operators to get work going on crucial road projects.

The Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association started the lockout September 4  after the union had been negotiating contracts with independent contractors and had not responded to MITA’s contract proposal. The union and MITA had been battling since spring over a new five-year contract. The lockout stalled or slowed more than 150 road construction projects in the state.

Snyder’s office said the new short-term agreement between MITA and the union includes the following:

  • MITA will end the lockout on all projects.
  • Union workers will report to work immediately.
  • Projects that can be completed before debilitating winter weather will receive top priority. Other projects will continue for as long as possible, including work to prepare them for safe winter travel if they cannot be completed.
  • The two sides will undergo professional mediation in winter to negotiate a new contract.

“This is great news and I appreciate that both sides were able to see how important the work they do is to the safety and quality of life for all Michiganders,” Snyder said. “The vital work of getting Michigan’s roads repaired should not have stalled, but the important thing now is that projects will be getting back on track. A long-term solution to the contract negotiations still needs to be worked out, but that can and should be done after this construction season is completed.”

The list of projects that can and cannot be finished before winter weather will be managed by the Michigan Department of Transportation, Snyder said.

MITA Executive Vice President Mike Nystrom said the contractors would work with the Michigan Department of Transportation to complete road projects and open lanes as soon as possible.

“I understand the frustration this has caused, but our association has an important responsibility to our members who are committed to doing the best work they can to build and maintain Michigan’s infrastructure on behalf of taxpayers,” Nystrom said. “We appreciate the governor’s commitment to resolving this issue in a satisfactory manner for both sides, so we can get these road projects underway again.”

Ken Dombrow, president of the Operating Engineers 324, said union members were ready to return to work.

“Our members are ready to get back on their machines and get these projects done across the state — and look forward to working again as soon as we can,” he said. “We still have issues to work out and will represent the best interests of our members throughout those negotiations, as we always have. We appreciate Gov. Snyder’s willingness to not take sides and to remain focused on finding a way to get the work done.”