Allegheny County says it is ready if road workers go on strike

Allegheny County’s 640 lane-miles of roads will continue to be salted and plowed, even if truck drivers in the county Public Works Department go on strike, county manager William McKain told reporters today.

“We are going to respond and take care of public safety no matter what,” he said.

Mr. McKain made his remarks inside the Allegheny County Courthouse this afternoon, as outside about 15 members of the Teamsters Local 249 gathered to call for a contract with pay increases from the county.

Teamsters protest over stalled contract talks

Teamsters protested Downtown today over what they say is a lack of progress in contract talks with Allegheny County. Officials for the county say roads will be maintained even if the Teamsters strike. (Video by Nate Guidry; 2/3/2014)

The union counts among its members about 60 Allegheny County employees who are mostly truck drivers in the Public Works Department. Union members voted Sunday to reject the county’s proposals for a new contract, and they plan to strike, Joseph Rossi Jr., president of the Teamsters Local 249, said.

“We’re not going to be treated worse than the other unions,” Mr. Rossi said today. “We want the same wages everyone else got.”

Specifically, they are asking for wage increases of 2 percent for 2013 and 2014 and 2.5 percent for 2015 and 2016. Mr. Rossi said the union has been without a contract for 14 months.

Dan Fleet, a truck driver for the county and Teamsters Local 249 member, was outside the courthouse today. He said he spent six hours Sunday salting roads around Carnegie.

“While everybody’s watching the football game, we’re out salting,” he said.

This afternoon, he held a sign that said: “No contract. No salt.”

As for a strike, Mr. Rossi said, “I hope it doesn’t happen.”

But since the job of his union members is salting the roads, he said it is “not going to take a genius to figure out when the ideal time is” for the Allegheny County public works department members to go on strike. The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm watch for Tuesday through Wednesday, citing the possibility of a quarter inch of ice and up to six inches of snow.

Mr. McKain, the county manager, also said he is hopeful the strike will be averted.

“We continue to negotiate in good faith with this union and all unions,” he said. He said the county is “consistently communicating” with the Teamsters and hopeful they will ratify.

“We are very fair,” he said. “We think our offer is attractive.”

If the workers do strike, he said his message to Allegheny County residents is that roads will still be salted and plowed. He said the county has “significant salt supplies” but wouldn't be specific who would do the work.

“That is our No. 1 priority this week,” he said. “We are ready to go.”

As for how the county will complete its road work, Mr. McKain said he is speaking with county attorneys and that “all options will be on the table.”

“I’m reviewing all of our contingency plans,” he said.

The county maintains a hodge-podge of roads in municipalities throughout the county. 

He said Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald is receiving daily briefings on the situation.

Mr. Fitzgerald walked by the protesters this afternoon on his way to a bus taking him and other county officials to Deer Lakes Park related to a proposal to drill for gas beneath the park. He did not stop to speak to protesters.

Kaitlynn Riely: or 412-263-1707.

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