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Contractor accused of unfair labor practices against workers sees heavy machine operators strike for fair treatment

Contractor accused of unfair labor practices against workers sees heavy machine operators strike for fair treatment

GRAND RAPIDS, Michigan (July 31, 2019) – After more than a year of enduring underhanded actions while negotiating in good faith to resolve an Unfair Labor Practice dispute, Operating Engineers who work for Indiana-based Rieth-Riley Construction chose to strike for fair treatment. The negotiations aimed to resolve several unfair labor practice allegations against Rieth-Riley while the hundreds of OE324 members continued to work without a new contract since June 2018.

“The Operating Engineers at Reith-Riley have repeatedly shown themselves to be dedicated and hardworking, and instead of being rewarded they have suffered at the hands of the company,” said Operating Engineers 324 Business Manager Douglas Stockwell. “Our workers have negotiated in good faith and the National Labor Relations Board has offered Reith-Riley a settlement to avoid a trial over unfair labor practice charges. Through it all, Rieth-Riley has refused to act in the best interests of its employees, and in light of the hardships Reith-Riley has placed on our workers and their families, we are left with no other recourse than a strike to protect our hardworking men and women.”

The OE324 members, who operate heavy machinery for Rieth-Riley, including those at their asphalt producing facilities, have faced a number of aggressive activities alleged to be unlawful by the NLRB from the company since June 2018 that could result in the company paying more than $1.8 million in back pay. They include:

  • A controversial lockout after Labor Day that stalled construction projects across Michigan. Workers who travel to worksites with company vehicles were stranded at locations throughout Michigan, sometimes hundreds of miles from home. The National Labor Relations Board investigated and alleges that Rieth-Riley committed an unfair labor practice because the lockout violated the National Labor Relations Act. The lockout ended only after Michigan’s governor intervened.
  • Engaging in what appears to be a bait-and-switch with wages when Rieth-Riley docked workers’ pay – to take back money it had given to the workers in 2018. The practice of taking away pay   to offset money paid to workers in an earlier period is alleged to violate    the National Labor Relations Act. Rieth-Riley’s shell game with workers’ wages is scheduled for an NLRB hearing in October before an administrative law judge.
  • Rieth Riley also denied the locked-out workers unemployment benefits. The State of Michigan ruled in the workers favor allowing them to receive benefits for the period of the lockout.[AEB2]

Rieth-Riley operates several construction crews in Michigan, as well as 13 facilities that produce asphalt for themselves and other contractors in the state.  There will likely be an impact on road construction throughout the state as asphalt supplies become limited.

“A strike is always a last resort,” states Operating Engineers 324 President Ken Dombrow.  “Unfortunately, Rieth-Riley – despite calling themselves a ‘family company’ – treats its workers unfairly and with malice. These workers have decided to make their voices heard in the only manner left available.  Rieth-Riley should do the right thing and give these hard-working professionals a new contract and a resolution to these Unfair Labor Practices.”