Equipment Operators End Strike at Wisconsin Construction Sites

A 19-day strike by hundreds of heavy equipment operators at construction sites in Wisconsin has come to an end.

The Local 139 of the International Union of Operating Engineers reported June 19 that members had ratified a new agreement with the Allied Construction Employers Association and the Association of General Contractors for Greater Milwaukee for an increase in wages. The previous Area I Master Building Agreement expired May 31. After negotiations with ACEA and AGC of Greater Milwaukee failed, members went on strike June 1. The strike area covered construction sites in Milwaukee, Kenosha, Ozaukee, Racine, Washington and Waukesha counties.

Under the recently expired contract that began in June 2021, union members made $39.24 to $50.71 an hour, depending on the equipment being operated and the operator’s classification. The rates went up about $1 an hour each year between 2021 and 2023.

Under the new agreement, which takes effect retroactively to June 2, wages will rise $2 or $2.45 an hour, depending on the members’ classification, according to the union. The members’ total hourly package increases $3.55 or $4 for wages, health insurance, pension, annuity and skill improvement.

“Thank you to all the members, family, friends and other trades that supported us with the Area I picket!” reads a Facebook post June 19.

During the strike, Local 139 President Terry McGowan told WISN 12 ABC affiliate the union worked well with contractors during tough times, but with the industry booming, its members believed they were not being compensated fairly. “They’re looking for a fair deal. They’re looking to catch up with inflation.”

The AGC of Greater Milwaukee released the following statement June 11 to CBS 58:

“The contractors respect and appreciate the men and women of Local 139 and their leadership. The Union has exercised its right to strike and picket jobsites, and we will continue to meet with the Union in good faith until we reach an agreement. They are union members, but they are also valued members of our respective firms, so we are disappointed to have not been able to reach agreement and get everyone back out into the field. We currently have a fair and very strong wage package on the table for consideration.”

Both sides were scheduled to have met June 14 to continue negotiations.