WASHINTON - NOVEMBER 24: Heavy traffic congestion is seen on Interstate 395 November 24, 2004 in Washington, DC. The day before Thanksgiving is traditionally the busiest travel day in the United States. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Why don’t these guys strike more often?
Motorists are enjoying a relatively traffic free commute into the city this morning after two major highway workers unions enacted a strike after negotiations with contractors fell through.
Cars were cruising, lanes were open and nary a construction worker could be seen.
The Illinois Department of Transportation cleared most roads of lane closures, signage and gear in preparation for the Laborers District Council of Chicago and the Local 150 of the International Union of Operating Engineers strike Wednesday morning. The workers' equipment is parked out of the way on road shoulders.
The walk-off caused few disruptions Wednesday. But officials warn that a prolonged strike could lead to delays and disruptions. And the threat of other unions – like carpenters and cement masons -- joining in the strike is cause for concern.
At issue: The International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 150 and the Laborers' District Council of Chicago and Vicinity, the three unions representing the 15,000 workers, are upset that the bargaining association is asking for a 10 percent to 12 percent increases in health care costs.
Both unions plan to send out a few picketers to select locations -- such as the O'Hare Airport demolitions site -- today, but their numbers will be at a minimum.
"Make no mistake: Our proposal included no wage increase," said Ed Maher from Local 150. "We're looking for help covering inflationary cost of healthcare.We spent $150 million in reserves to cover workers. Were asking contractors to share burden".