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The perfect fix for Illinois’ striking construction workers

By Joe Yovino

Drive on the Eisenhower Expressway outside of Chicago or by a high school in Chicago’s western suburban of Naperville and you can see it. Or, more accurately, you can see the lack of it.

Construction crews in Illinois are on strike and it’s slowing down some important projects across the northern part of the state.

Another round of talks broke down Tuesday with no deal between the striking workers and the contractors who hire them.

The heart of the strike, which began earlier this month, centers on labor groups asking for a total wage increase of 15 percent over three years to offset the rising cost of health care. The unions’ three-year contracts expired May 31.

One union reported talks were inching along Tuesday, but it accuses the contractors of lacking urgency. Contractors counter by saying the unions will not make a proposal that’s in line with the state of the industry and the economy.

Mid-America Regional Bargaining Association, which represents construction companies, is offering a 3.25 percent hike over three years, according to the Chicago Tribune. Wages range from $53.37 an hour for laborers to $68.18 an hour for engineers — a sum that includes the cost of health benefits, the bargaining group said.

Meanwhile, Walmart just announced it plans to build 24 new stores in the Chicagoland area. Most of the jobs will pay $9.50 per hour.

Illinois’ unemployment rate is at 10.8 percent, with 721,000 people without jobs in May.

The perfect fix for Illinois: take those 721,000 unemployed workers, train them to build Walmarts at $31.44 per hour (the average between $9.50 and $53.37) and then they can get to work on the $95 million Eisenhower resurfacing project.

That’s done. Now to begin work on getting an honest governor.

Joe Yovino is the Web editor at The Daily Reporter. He’s kidding about the honest governor part. That’ll never happen in Illinois.

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