The strike is over.
Those four words and the implications they bring jumpstarted construction projects throughout Chicagoland this week, from roads and highways to parks and schools. Bulldozers, bobcats and cement trucks were back on job sites in Naperville as well, getting back to work on major road projects like the Jefferson Avenue Bridge, the intersection at 75th and Washington St. and the widening of 111th Street.
Union laborers and operators had been on strike for nearly three weeks, calling for wage increases to cover healthcare costs from employers, represented by the Mid-America Regional Bargaining Association (MARBA). After two negotiating sessions produced little progress, the sides came into agreement on July 19, producing a three-year contract that includes a 3.25% wage increase each year to cover healthcare. The International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150 ratified the agreement with members coming away satisfied.
“The members are happy,” said Ed Maher, spokesman for Local 150. “We went in and showed them the proposal and it all went toward healthcare and benefits, there’s nothing toward wages. And the members, they understood.”
But even with the strike settled and work sites buzzing with activity, nearly three weeks of lost time puts the completion of some of the street projects in Naperville in jeopardy. The Jefferson Avenue Bridge is the most critical, with completion before Last Fling being a major priority with the city. Crews will pour the concrete deck of the bridge next week, and from there finishing the job in time for the festival depends on the weather.
“If it’s not open, we will figure out contingency plans relative to the (Labor Day) Parade and impacts on schooling,” said Bill Novack, Naperville’s City Engineer. “We’re currently assessing that.”
The intersection at 75th and Washington Streets has been another headache for motorists this construction season. The widening of lanes and addition of a pedestrian tunnel under Washington Street has created abundant congestion, which Novack promises “will be gone before wintertime.” He can promise this with certainty because the city had ample time to finish the project there and on 111th Street, even with a nearly three week work stoppage.
“Nothing was critical that we would have to pay for acceleration on,” said Novak. “The one that we’re taking a look at though is the Jefferson Avenue Bridge.”
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