A concrete workers’ strike is in its third month, halting work at Seattle-area construction projects, idling hundreds of workers and threatening to delay several major transportation projects, reports Seattle weather.
The strike began last year when a small group of 34 dump truck drivers went on strike over failed contract talks with employers over pay rises and medical benefits . That number quickly grew to 330 cement mixer operators and plant workers, represented by Teamsters Local 174. The strike affects six concrete companies located in the county: Gary Merlino Construction Co., Stoneway Concrete, Cadman, CalPortland, Salmon Bay Sand & Gravel Co. and Lehigh Cement.
As a result of the strike, construction contractors were fired as projects were halted or were forced to scale back operations without concrete. The layoffs are expected to continue as the strike drags on.
In a statement released by seven of Kings County’s largest construction contractors, including GLY, Sellen and Turner, the companies pleaded for the two parties to reach an agreement: “Currently, thousands of tradespeople are idle and unable to work because of this strike. action. Additional work stoppages are impacting healthcare and life science facilities, commercial buildings, schools, low-income residential housing projects and more. All of this is on top of a global pandemic, which has devastated the economy, our local businesses, and the well-being of individuals and their families.
Last week, the Teamsters and the negotiator representing the companies tried to negotiate new contracts that make both parties happy. However, The Seattle Times reports that it ended early with no resolution.
“Companies are demanding that workers accept a wage, health and pension package that equates to a three-year pay cut after taking inflation into account,” according to a union statement. “Worse still, companies have repeatedly refused to contribute to a health care plan that will save workers thousands of dollars a year in retirement, even though local concrete industry members 174 originally offered to cover any future cost increases.
Although the union is not happy with the contract negotiations, the companies involved say they have presented the best package they have ever offered, reports the Seattle Times.
The union says no more bargaining sessions are scheduled and picket lines will remain active until a contract is reached. However, companies negotiating new contracts said they had engaged in the FMCS process as the best way to reach an agreement.
“It’s a matter of life and death for us,” said Rick Hicks, secretary-treasurer of Teamsters Local 174. “Livelihoods are at stake for thousands of workers. This strike has so far cost the lives of two of our members. The health insurance of hundreds of our members and their families will run out at the end of the month.