CHICAGO (STMW) - Chicago Skyway toll booth workers have begun preparing for a possible strike on one of the busiest traffic times of the year—the Labor Day weekend.
The current three-year contract with Skyway Concession Company was set to expire July 3, but Teamsters Local 727, the union represents the 30 workers who man toll booths on the South Side, agreed to extend the contract until Aug. 31, according to a statement from Teamsters Local 727.
Workers have begun assembling picket signs, creating banners and gathering support from union members across Illinois and northwest Indiana, the statement said. Teamsters will ask drivers to avoid the Skyway—the 7.8 mile connection between the Dan Ryan Expressway and the Indiana Toll Road—in the event of a strike.
“The ball is in management’s court,” John Coli Jr., president of Teamsters Local 727, said in a statement. “The company can either do the right thing and come together to reach a fair agreement, or it can force our members out on the picket line to fight for the wages, benefits and working conditions they deserve.”
Skyway Concession Company wants to move forward in good faith, a company representative said.
“I don’t think the Skyway is really wanting to talk about the possibility of a strike, and it’s nothing we are hoping will come about. We have been negotiating in good faith,” the representative said.
The company has been operating the Skyway since 2005 under a 99-year lease with the city worth $1.83 billion. It has increased Skyway tolls twice in the last two years, according to the Teamster. On Jan. 1, car tolls increased by 50 cents to $4.50.
Tolls for trucks with three to seven or more axles rose to between $15.20 and $35.50 each way during peak hours, making the Skyway’s rate of $2.69 per mile for a five-axle truck the highest per mile in the country, according to one Illinois Tollway analysis.
But despite a rise in revenues, Skyway Concession has not created more full-time positions, but continues to hire temporary employees, the statement said. Only five of the 30 union members are full-time, with the rest working fewer than 30 hours a week, the statement said.
“This gigantic corporation continues to fill its coffers while its employees struggle to make ends meet,” Coli said. “These are not just nameless, faceless employees; these are hardworking people with families who depend on them, and they will accept nothing less than a living wage and adequate health insurance.”