Update on Operating Engineers, Local 324 (Be Wary of Union Authored Contracts)

Operating Engineers, Local 324 (OE 324) continues to refuse to meet with MITA, even though the MITA/OE Utility Distribution Agreement has been expired since May 1, 2018, and the MITA/OE Road Agreement has been expired since June 1, 2018. By all accounts, business continues as usual; however, there are many moving parts in play that should be considered.

Over the last few days, several contractors have received a “new” Road Contract in the mail with a request from OE 324 “to please sign and return the enclosed agreement”. THIS IS NOT A NEGOTIATED AGREEMENT AND SHOULD NOT BE SIGNED AND RETURNED! This is an attempt by OE 324 to confuse the industry with a simple signature request on a labor contract that has been written solely by and for the union. If you received one of these bogus contracts in the mail (or even if a Business Agent has dropped one off), you should be very wary.

The “new union-authored contract” includes several new items that will change the way that you do business with the union. First of all, a hiring hall is included now in a short one-sentence paragraph, which ties into a multi-page policy that the union has not bothered to provide. Also, the union has slipped in several new classifications, which in turn have premiums built-in, which ultimately significantly increases the seemingly minimal economic increases being offered by the union.

OE 324, through their Business Agents, is telling contractors that they will not send any referrals to contractors if they are with MITA. They are also telling some folks that they will not sign up any new hires into the union for this same reason. At this point, since the industry is working without a contract, you have no responsibility to sign up new hires into the union. It is recommended that all contractors pay the proper scale for all operators and also send monthly contributions into the fringe funds for ALL operators performing work under the old contract, including new hires, even if they are not a signed member of the union.

It has been confirmed that the OE 324 fringe benefits funds will continue to accept and hold all contribution checks that come in for the Utility Distribution and Road Agreements, so it is recommended that all signatory contractors continue to send in the fringes like normal at the 2017 effective rates. However, to be clear, these checks will be “held only”, and no crediting will take place for any employees currently working under these expired agreements at this time. If your company submits contributions electronically, you may receive a request to submit a mailed check instead for the time being.

Finally, one of the biggest concerns of every employer is continued coverage of benefits for all employees. All operators who have accrued the minimum of three months (520 hours) of healthcare eligibility prior to the termination of a MITA/OE collective bargaining agreement will continue to have healthcare coverage for the next three months. This means that operators working under the Utility Agreement will have coverage through the end of July and operators working under the Road Agreement will have coverage through the end of August. Any new hires who were on the job for less than the minimum three months will not develop eligibility until a new contract is executed.

Continue to direct your employees to michiganinfrastructurelabornegotiations.com for the latest facts and information.

If you have any questions, please contact Mike Nystrom at (517) 896-1493 or at mikenystrom@thinkmita.org.