SUBMITTED BY OPERATING ENGINEERS 324
The Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association and its affiliated contractors initiated the work stoppage.
Starting at 7am, September 4, 2018, contractors affiliated with the Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association (MITA) informed members of Operating Engineers 324 working on road construction projects around the state that they were not to report to work indefinitely.
While MITA is contending that the action is a “defensive lockout,” the lack of a contract means the employees are effectively “at-will.” As such, the contractors have no authority to lock workers out. Therefore, this is an involuntary layoff.
As there is no contract in place, and there have not nor will be negotiations between Operating Engineers 324 and MITA, there is nothing in dispute. Operating Engineers 324 has not threatened action against the contractors, and have taken no aggressive or hostile actions, including strikes or slow-downs. Since June 1, MITA has repeatedly stated publicly that OE324 would shut down work – that has not happened once.
MITA and OE324 legally terminated the previous agreement. When it expired June 1, the relationship between OE324 and MITA was effectively dissolved. This was MITA’s decision. At this point, OE324 decided not to negotiate with MITA. This was due to many years of actions taken by MITA detrimental to OE324 members, including giving members’ work away to workers with less training and skills.
The state of our crumbling infrastructure has long been cited as the number one concern to Michigan’s residents. Because of this, as well as to support their families, Operating Engineers 324 members continued to work on every single project around the state without a contract. It has long been OE324’s contention that the contract would work itself out, but completing the work of rebuilding Michigan’s roads was of the utmost importance and therefore, must continue.
OE324 invited contractors to take part in the negotiation of a new contract for the state of Michigan. MITA contractors did not participate, so a road agreement was reached with other contractors and ratified by the
membership. MITA is now demanding that OE324 vacate that statewide road agreement in favor of their own, self-authored agreement.
Without a contract, OE324 is legally unable to accept fringe benefit payments for members. MITA has dishonestly characterized this as a choice rather than a legal obligation by OE324. Now, by laying off seasonal employees and threatening to deny their unemployment, MITA hopes to force financial desperation on these workers’ families.
Projects that overrun their allotted time are often subject to stiff fines and penalties from the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT). These fines are levied because cost overruns cost the taxpayers more money as additional hours and materials are needed. MITA has stated that they expect MDOT to waive any penalties these layoffs might trigger, which would pass the cost on to the taxpayers.
Operating Engineers run dangerous heavy equipment weighing many tons and requiring years of training. They often run this equipment just feet from motorists, and around electrical, water and other infrastructure needs. MITA has encouraged their contractors to keep the machines running with whatever labor is available, a potentially dangerous proposition.
Since this is a layoff, and OE324 members have been willing to continue working without a contract for the time being, the ball is firmly in the contractors’ court. All MITA needs to do for work to resume is move out of the way.