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I-74 bridge work suspended over labor dispute
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I-74 bridge work suspended over labor dispute

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Work has come to a halt on much of the Interstate 74 bridge because of a labor strike.

The International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150 declared Monday it was striking against Manatt's Construction, a subcontractor for McCarthy Improvement, doing grinding on the bridge.

Members of Local 150 have been working for primary bridge contractor Lunda and for Civil Constructors.

Other workers also walked off the job.

Ed Maher, communications director for Local 150, said the union filed an unfair labor practices claim against Manatt's earlier this year with the National Labor Relations Board, or NLRB. No decision has been made, Maher said, and the matter remains unresolved.

"The strike is for unfair labor practices ... discriminating against employees and refusing to bargain in good faith," Maher said.

"As long as Manatt's is there, we're going to be there (picketing)."

Greg Bush, of McCarthy Improvement, said his company secured a "release" with Local 150. The agreement allowed McCarthy to subcontract with Manatt's, even though it is a non-union company. But the union reneged on the agreement, he said.

The two companies are entirely separate from one another, Bush said. Their only dealings outside of the subcontracting work is that McCarthy last year sold Manatt's an asphalt plant, which now operates under the Manatt's name.

Brian Atkins, business manager for Ironworkers Local 111, said his membership wanted to see the dispute between the operators and Manatt's resolved as quickly as possible.

"Everything we do requires a crane operator," he said. "We can't do what we do without crane operators. We've got work to do."

Manatt's was not immediately available to comment on the strike and the complaint filed by the union. 

Danielle Alvarez, project manager for the Iowa DOT, said the state agency was encouraging parties to continue to work toward progress on the bridge and related roadways, acknowledging the DOT has no authority in resolving the dispute. She said some work was ongoing, despite the strike.

"Work on the entire I-74 project has not been halted, however, some tasks, specifically over the river, are impacted. Contractors are continuing progress on land, and normal operations over the river will resume when possible," Alvarez said. "We currently believe that the Iowa-bound bridge will be ready to open to traffic by the end of this year, however, this dispute does have the potential to impact the timing of opening.

"The DOT encourages all contractors to explore viable options to continue making progress to get Iowa-bound I-74 open to traffic, however, ultimately resolution of this dispute is outside the contractual relationship between Iowa DOT and the contractors."

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