Road workers strike, halting projects statewide

WYOMING, Mich. -- Road projects across the state have come to a sudden stop Wednesday because of yet another labor dispute. Last year, it was a lockout. This year, it's a strike.

Rieth-Riley employees walked out on strike as of 5 a.m.

Passersby honked in solidarity with the workers picketing in front of the construction company's Wyoming location. It’s one of 13 plants across the state where employees are demanding a new contract, according to Operating Engineers Local 324 spokesman Dan McKernan.

"Here we are a year and two months later, there's still not a new contract in place," McKernan said.

"In the meantime, over the last year these workers have had to deal with constant unfair treatment at the hands of the company," he said.

McKernan said he's not at liberty to discuss contract specifics but said last year's lockout, which delayed road projects for weeks, was illegal and that workers deserve back pay.

"We tried to deal with this in the offseason. That was our entire goal, and that's when we worked out contracts with the other hundred-plus road contractors we have agreements with," he said.

"We've met (with Rieth-Riley), but they haven't negotiated in good faith and that's why we don't have a solution today."

Although MDOT could not say which projects are directly affected, McKernan said the strike impacts 80 to 90 state projects. That doesn't include local county and city projects like the one on Byron Center Avenue between 84th and 92nd streets.

Jerry Byrne with the Kent County Road Commission said, "Last night (at) about 9:30, I received a text from the local regional manager at Rieth-Riley saying, 'Hey look, as of midnight the operators union are going out on strike. These projects that are scheduled for tomorrow, obviously, we have to reschedule.'"

Byrne said the project to remove and replace the asphalt on Byron Center was supposed to start Wednesday. Now, he's looking to minimize the impact of the prep work that's already been done.

"And that's why we're looking at what can we do. We've been in contact with Reith Riley today, and if they can't confirm rescheduled date with us we're going to do what we have to do with our own forces to get the pedestrian traffic back open and get the vehicular traffic open for the motorists and the residents," Byrne explained.

"That's what we plan to do starting tomorrow," he added.

Rieth-Riley President Keith Rose released a statement and said, in part, “We have gone back to the table time and time again and have offered up excellent employee compensation plans and the Union has refused to attempt to negotiate a fair deal."

"Claims by the Union that Rieth-Riley is participating in unfair labor practices are merely accusations and have not been decided upon by the National Labor Relations Board.. Thus, this strike is premature at best," he said.

"Rieth-Riley has continued to perform work, pay its employees as promised and
negotiate in good faith with the Union for the benefit of both its employees and its
customers. There simply is no good reason for the Union to stop work. Michigan’s
roads and bridges are crumbling and at the very prime of the construction season,
projects are now being delayed unnecessarily," Rose said.

A hearing on this issue is set for October if the two sides can't come to an agreement by then. It will take place in front of the National Labor Relations Board(NLRB).

The union plans to picket again Thursday.

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  • On It

    Rieth-Riley is not the only company that is capable of doing the work. If they are under contract, it is being breached.
    If the Whitmer gas tax gets passed it’ll be the last straw. I’ll take my dollars elsewhere where it is warm.

  • Jimmy Hoffa

    Fire them all . 5 guys holding shovels while 1 guy actually works.

    Get rid of theses worthless unions. All they do is protect the lazy workers.

    • You ain't got a clue

      You cry babies have no idea what those fellas at reith have endured. The union has waited over a year with no progresd. imagine what would happen if they were not there protecting them. As for the fella crying and man power. Most paving crews are understaffed and it’s been hard to get people to do these kinda hours and work. The kzoo reith guys average 90 plus hours a week. Before you cry about what they do or don’t do and when They stand or dont stand how about you man up and apply and see how it works In the really real world.

      • J.B.

        Um..I am not the one crying…I am merely stating the obvious.
        You on the other hand sound exactly like the typical whining union striker,
        Who likes to start a project, get half way through it then stop and “strike” to demand more money.
        That IMHO is blackmail.
        Play that mini violin somewhere else pal…
        I would happily fire every single one of you and never hire another sub par union peon again.
        Problem permanently solved.

  • Rj

    You can bet the union and the progressive governor are in cahoots on this strike. There are plenty of people who would gladly drive and operate rollers and other equipment which can be learned quickly and I’m sure we taxpayers from this state pay them and their illegals pretty darn good wage. Prevailing wages to boot. Plus holding people hostage is the way of the unions

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