tunnel WSDOT
There is a time concern. The ILWU's action could force tunneling to stop. There is only so much room at Terminal 46 to pile up the dirt being removed by the boring machine. (WSDOT Photo)

Unions file complaints against Longshoremen over tunnel project

It's union versus union on the Seattle waterfront. The building trade unions are being blocked from the tunnel project site by picketing Longshoremen and have filed a complaint against them with the National Labor Relations Board.

The Longshoremen's Union has been picketing the tunnel project site since Tuesday, claiming it was promised four jobs removing dirt from the boring machine. The pickets have kept the building trades union workers, who have the contract for removing the dirt, from accessing the site.

Those unions, the Pacific Northwest Regional Council of Carpenters and the National Construction Alliance, have filed an unfair labor practice complaint against the longshoremen for blocking them from working.

"We need to let that work its way through the National Labor Relations Board process, see what ruling is issued, and then proceed accordingly from that point forward," Seattle Tunnel Partners project manager Chris Dixon said.

The tunnel group is considering what other options it might have or use to keep the longshoremen from blocking the site, including legal action, but Dixon said it's staying out of this union fight, for now.

"We don't want to do anything as Seattle Tunnel Partners that would escalate the situation or worsen the situation," Dixon said. "We're letting all the normal procedures in these types of instances take their course and we'll see how things develop as we go forward."

But there is a time concern here. The ILWU's action could force tunneling to stop. There is only so much room at Terminal 46 to pile up the dirt being removed by the boring machine.

"Without the ability to deposit the excavated material from the tunnel onto Terminal 46 and to haul it away by truck or by barge, we cannot advance the tunnel boring machine so the tunneling would stop," said Dixon.

That might just be a few weeks, but Dixon is hopeful this will be resolved by then.

"In discussions with the NLRB, they're anticipating that they can process this fairly quickly," Dixon said.

This is a somewhat unusual situation.

Unions generally do not file unfair labor practices complaints against other unions.

All three unions were contacted for their comments on this story, but all three failed to return any of our calls or emails.

Chris Sullivan, KIRO Radio Reporter
Chris loves the rush of covering breaking news and works hard to try to make sense of it all while telling stories about real people in extraordinary circumstances.
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