Aggregate, Teamsters labor dispute boils over

August 25, 2010
Aggregate Industries Northeast, the huge asphalt and concrete supplier at the center of a Big Dig scandal last decade, is now embroiled in a major labor dispute with the Teamsters amid charges of vandalism at strike sites across the region.

Hundreds of Teamsters went on strike last week, forcing Aggregate to hire temporary replacements to drive trucks to keep its Northeast business up and running.

The company has since said it’s been hit with a rash of vandalism at its area sites, including slashed truck tires and windows. Teamster leaders were involved in contract talks yesterday and couldn’t be reached for comment.

The two sides may be close to tentative agreements on major issues, though it wasn’t clear yesterday if the compromises are enough to end the standoff.

The labor dispute involves union members at Teamster Locals 25 and 170, though workers at three other Teamster chapters have also gone on a “sympathy strike” across eastern New England. Up to 300 employees are now involved in the strike action.

Some workers have complained that Aggregate wants major wage and work place changes. Some have even suggested that Aggregate Industries Northeast, which last decade agreed to pay $50 million to settle federal charges that it provided substandard concrete to the Big Dig project, wants concessions to help pay for its past fines.

But Peter Bennett, an attorney for Aggregate, rejected those claims, saying the company wants “work-rule flexibility” to make it more competitive against non-union industry rivals amid a tough economy.

“The issue is that the economy is in the tank,” said Bennett. “We can’t compete now. There just isn’t much work materializing.”

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