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Stalled Michigan roadwork to resume after lockout ended

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LANSING, Mich. — More than 150 stalled road projects across Michigan are set to resume after road builders agreed to end their lockout of a union of heavy equipment operators, Gov. Rick Snyder announced Thursday.

The agreement brings to an end, at least temporarily, a labor impasse that had disrupted work for more than three weeks, including on big projects along Interstates 75 and 696 in the Detroit area. The Michigan Infrastructure & Transportation Association will stop the lockout of between 1,000 and 2,000 members of the Operating Engineers 324 union, who will work without a contract until the winter.

The parties, who met with Snyder on Tuesday but left the meeting without a resolution, will use professional mediation to help with negotiations for a new contract, the governor said.

“This is great news, and I appreciate that both sides were able to see how important the work they do is to the safety and quality of life for all Michiganders,” Snyder said in a statement. “The vital work of getting Michigan’s roads repaired should not have stalled, but the important thing now is that projects will be getting back on track.”

About 50 contractors exercised what they called a “defensive lockout” on Sept. 4, more than three months after the expiration of the last union contract. The union called it an “involuntary layoff.”

Snyder said a priority will be placed on projects that can be finished prior to winter weather arriving, while other projects will continue for as long as possible and be prepared for safe travel if they cannot be completed.

The state had warned the contractors that they could have to pay liquidated damages if their work extends beyond contractually required completion dates. Snyder had floated the possibility of activating the Michigan National Guard to help with “critical” projects. Mike Nystrom, executive vice president/secretary of MITA, said this week that the contractors had started temporarily hiring an unspecified number of nonunion replacement workers — many from out of state.

“I understand the frustration this has caused, but our association has an important responsibility to our members who are committed to doing the best work they can to build and maintain Michigan’s infrastructure on behalf of taxpayers,” he said in a statement.

Ken Dombrow, president of Operating Engineers 324, said in a statement that “our members are ready to get back on their machines and get these projects done across the state, and look forward to working again as soon as we can.”

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The Nation

Love’s, its customers raise more than $3.75 million for children’s hospitals

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Love’s showed additional support for CMN Hospitals on National Coffee Day, which took place September 29-30 during the store campaign. To honor the day, all hot beverages were discounted to $1, with sales going to CMN Hospitals. (Courtesy: LOVE'S)

OKLAHOMA CITY — Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores and its customers raised more than $3.75 million for sick and injured children through its five-week store campaign to raise funds for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. In the 20th year of the campaign, the company surpassed its goal of $3.6 million and set a company record for the most money raised during a campaign.

“We are so thankful to our employees and customers who not only donate at our stores, but who also go out of their way to raise money for sick and injured children in creative ways,” said Jenny Love Meyer, vice president of communications for Love’s. “Each year, we enjoy seeing communities come together for this effort and we couldn’t be prouder to have raised over $3.75 million for this year’s campaign.”

From August 26-September 30, customers could purchase Miracle Balloons, round up to the nearest dollar at registers or pumps or participate in events like 5k runs or fishing tournaments to donate money to CMN Hospitals.

Love’s showed additional support for CMN Hospitals on National Coffee Day, which took place September 29-30 during the store campaign. To honor the day, all hot beverages were discounted to $1, with sales going to CMN Hospitals.

“We are excited about the results of this year’s Love’s fundraising campaign,” said John Lauck, president and CEO of CMN Hospitals. “Not only did 2019 mark a 20-year milestone of partnership between Love’s and CMN Hospitals but more exciting, Love’s also crossed $31 million in donations to help sick and injured children treated in our hospitals across the U.S.”

Of the 170 CMN Hospitals throughout North America, 107 benefit from Love’s annual campaign.

 

 

 

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The Nation

Average price of gallon of diesel increase half a cent

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The price for the week ending October 14 was 34.3 cents lower than the comparable week in 2018. (The Trucker file photo)

WASHINGTON — The average price of a gallon of on-highway diesel increase four tenths of one cent to $3.051 for the week ending October 14, according to the Energy Information Administration of the Department of Energy.

Normally posted on Monday of each week, the average price chart was released Tuesday because the federal government was closed Monday for the Columbus Day holiday.

All but two regions of the country posted increases led by a 1.9 cent increase in the Rocky Mountain states (Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Utah and Colorado).

The New England states (Maine, Vermont, Hew Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts) was the only region showing a decline at five tenths of one cent.

The price for the week ending October 14 was 34.3 cents lower than the comparable week in 2018.

 

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DeFazio asks IG to investigate reports of Chao’s conflicts of interest

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In requesting an investigation of Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, Rep. Peter DeFazio cites newly-obtained information from a recent media report that suggested Chao used her office to give preferential treatment to organizations and projects in Kentucky where her husband, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is currently seeking re-election. (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

WASHINGTON — The chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee is requesting an investigation into Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao and her reported conflicts of interest.

Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., made the request in a letter to Department of Transportation Inspector General Calvin L. Scovel III.

The letter, sent October 11, cites newly-obtained information from a recent media report that suggested Chao used her office to give preferential treatment to organizations and projects in Kentucky where her husband, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is currently seeking re-election.

Politico reported that 25% of Secretary Chao’s meetings with local officials between January 2017 and March 2018 were with individuals from Kentucky.

DeFazio said the report noted that requests for meetings with Chao are typically forwarded from McConnell’s office to Chao’s chief of staff, who previously worked on McConnell’s Senate campaign, DeFazio wrote.

The Office of the Secretary of Transportation took exception to DeFazio efforts.

DeFazio said the Politico report followed an earlier report that Chao had asked her chief of staff to serve as an intermediary between her office and McConnell’s office, and that he had helped advise the senator and local Kentucky officials on federal grants of particular significance to McConnell.

“These allegations were first raised by left wing advocacy groups and hashed out in the media, and the department has previously fully responded to them. They are politically motivated and intended to waste time. While the Department will always be cooperative and responsive to appropriate requests, DOT looks forward to a prompt and final resolution of these questions,” a DOT spokesman told The Trucker Tuesday.

“Allegations included the steering of discretionary grants to fund these projects,” DeFazio wrote.  “I would expect Secretary Chao to meet with individuals from her home state more regularly than other states, but the sheer volume of meetings with local officials from Kentucky when compared to meetings with local officials from the rest of the country creates an appearance of favoritism that is troubling.  Even more troubling is the fact that McConnell’s campaign touted the Politico article on social media saying, ‘Mitch McConnell is a Kentucky Asset.’”

DeFazio said news reports have also raised questions about Chao’s adherence to her federal ethics agreement in which she agreed to divest certain assets to prevent her personal finances from creating conflicts of interest.

In particular, it has been reported that the secretary retained stock in Vulcan Materials, a stone and asphalt producer, as opposed to accepting a cash payment for her stock options in the company, as provided for in her ethics agreement.

 

 

 

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