Construction labor dispute continues; National Guard joins conversation

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- Governor Snyder's office says fixing the roads may now be a job for the National Guard.

“Well, the National Guard has engineers in their ranks. So, that’s a possibility. This has not been done before, because this is an unprecedented issue,” Governor Snyder's Director of Communication, Ari Adler, said. 

The Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association, (MITA), who represents the contractors, says they've already started talks with the National Guard.

“We immediately began conversations with the National Guard, and have had conversations last night and again this morning, about the possibility of using many of their equipment operators on the equipment to finish up these projects this year,” Executive Vice-President, MITA, Mike Nystrom said. 

But Operating Engineers 324, the union representing workers, says calling the National Guard will cost Michigan drivers even more.

“We think it’s preposterous that the taxpayers of Michigan should be expected to pick up the tab to bail out contractors who chose to shut down these projects,” Communications Director of Operating Engineers 324, Dan Mckernan, said.

Ideally, the governor's office wants the contractors and the workers to figure out a way to work together.

“The key here is trying to find the best way to get this done as quickly as possible, and really the answer that is to have both sides come together, and do what we thought was a pretty simple agreement, which is continue the contract that expired in June, continue that through the road construction season,” Ari Alder said.

MITA says they're not willing to work with the Operating Engineers union, claiming when they were using their workers after their contract expired in June, worker's weren't meeting the organization's standards.

“They can say they want to work, but while they working, they were having a negative impact on the progress of the projects. It might have looked like their was progress on the projects, but they were having a negative impact on projects across the board,” Mike Nystrom said. 

The union says that's just not true, and their workers remain ready to work without contract to finish the construction projects they started. The union says MITA won't let that happen without an agreement.

“Our solution has remained the same since the first day of the layoff. Call the workers back. If they’re willing to work without a contract, the contractors should accept that for the time being,” Dan Mckernan said. 

For the time being, construction remains at a stand still.

“Voters in Michigan need these road projects done. We need to get these roads opened up again.” 

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