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Striking workers put some Michigan road construction projects in limbo

Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio

Orange barrel season in Michigan might be a little longer this year.

Dozens of Michigan construction projects are in limbo as unionized heavy equipment operators went on strike early Wednesday morning.  

The Operating Engineers Local 324 is upset with a stalemate in contract talks with the Indiana-based Rieth-Riley Construction. The company is handling roughly 90 state road projects, including large projects on I-94 and I-75.

Union spokesman Dan McKernan accuses the company of unfair labor practices.

“We’re not going to take this treatment any more,” says McKernan. “This has reached a breaking point.  Something has to give.”

The company accuses the union of refusing to attempt to negotiate a fair deal.

“We have gone back to the table time and time again and have offered up excellent employee compensation plans,” says Keith Rose, President of Rieth-Riley Construction Co., Inc.

The National Labor Relations Board has scheduled an October hearing in the dispute between the union and the company.

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.