Kent Co. adjusts road projects amid contractor strike

Kent County

BYRON TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — The Kent County Road Commission is adjusting two road construction projects impacted by a labor strike involving an asphalt and concrete contractor.

Operating Engineers 324 says it’s been negotiating with Rieth-Riley Construction for more than a year and hundreds of members have been working without a new contract since June 2018.

The union announced Wednesday morning that members who operate heavy machinery for Reith-Riley are now on strike over “unfair labor practices.”

The union says the National Labor Relations Board has accused Rieth-Riley of unlawful activities that could amount to more than $1.8 million in back pay, including stranding workers near construction sites and denying them unemployment benefits during a lockout around Labor Day that stalled construction projects statewide.

However, in a statement to The Detroit News, Rieth-Riley said it agreed to “essentially all wages, terms and conditions” negotiated with other contractors except for the union’s subcontracting clause.

Rieth-Riley is a contractor for Kent County. The strike impacts work on Byron Center Avenue from 84th Street to 92nd Street in Byron Center and neighborhood streets north of 36th Street in Cascade Township.

“All of a sudden it stopped. So we were wondering what was going hap- what was happening,” said a man who lives in Cascade Township neighborhood with torn up roads.

“There were some gaps between the finished roads and the new curbs that I think if this thing extends more than a week, we’re probably going to have to go out and fill some of those things just because if a kids bike goes in there, he’s going to take a tumble,” he added.

The road commission says beginning Thursday, crews still on the job will restore asphalt along the center lane of Byron Center Avenue and restore all traffic lanes.

In Cascade Township, road crews will repair spots in subdivisions where asphalt was removed.

“Right now, without a date or a time we need to assume it could be a week or it could be a month,” said Jerry Byrne, deputy managing director of operations for the Kent County Road Commission.

The road commission says once the labor dispute is resolved, it will work with Rieth-Riley to reschedule remaining work on both projects.

“As long as it doesn’t go into winter or anything like that, we’ll be good,” said another Cascade Township man.

However, the union warned the strike could also impact other road projects. Rieth-Riley manufactures asphalt for its company and other contractors, which means halted work could limit the asphalt supply.

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