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NORTH CHICAGO, Ill. (CBS) — A stretch of beach in suburban North Chicago was supposed to be packed with families for the holiday weekend, for the first time in a 100 years.
But now it’s not.
CBS 2’s Sabrina Franza is digging into what’s going on.
The people of North Chicago have been without a beach for nearly a century. It’s been closed because the current was too dangerous.
They were finally going to have a lakeside Fourth of July, lakeside, but now – they’ll have to wait. Again.
“Ugh. my whole continent sank. It took so long to happen, and then here comes the strike,” said Foss Park District Commissioner Dr. Donna King.
A labor dispute that started on June 7 means North Chicago’s beach won’t have a July 4th celebration.
“Unfortunately, a lot of projects have been slowed down because of this,” said Vance Wyatt, Chair of the Foss Park Committee.
Local 150 of the International Union of Operating Engineers went on strike against three manufacturers for unfair labor practices. Problem is that those manufactures produce things like sand, necessary for building a $4 million taxpayer funded beach.
It’s notable because this beach, which for decades was closed for its unsafe swimming conditions, which include a rip current and sand drop off.
“By the time it’s finished. it won’t be a drop off. It’ll be just be a beach,” King said.
Rocks also make it safer, as they slow down the current with break walls.
“Rocks are actually able to prevent some of the rip tides that we have here in Lake Michigan,” Wyatt said.
Work has resumed. It’s just going to take longer.
“We’re looking at closer to the end of July, maybe the first week of August,” King said.
Even then, like in many other parts of the Chicago area, there are no lifeguards.
“A swim at your own risk policy,” Wyatt said.
For next year, the park district said it plans to partner with its Navy neighbors. A different solution to the lifeguard shortage.
A Navy representative told CBS 2 the opposite. That they don’t have enough lifeguards to support their own work, unless things change in the next 12 months.
“I’m just grateful that this is finally happening, and that families can come here and have good family days and good family vacations,” King said. “We’re looking at closer to the end of July, maybe the first week of August.”
The park district is planning a celebration to open the beach on July 30. After that, they hope people can swim the rest of the summer.
They expect to complete the other upgrades, like a playground and concession stands by October.
The union sent CBS 2 this statement:
Local 150 has been tirelessly working toward a settlement with Lehigh Hanson, Lafarge Holcim and Vulcan Materials that would resolve the strike and allow projects like Foss Park Beach to continue, but these employers’ stall tactics in negotiations have needlessly impacted many projects. Just today, employers walked out of negotiations without agreeing to additional dates this week.
There are dozens of other companies that can provide sand, stone and gravel and that haven’t violated their employees’ basic rights and aren’t impacted by this strike. A list of these employers is available at www.local150.org/openquarries and we encourage customers to contact a company from this list to handle their work.