Northwest Carpenters Union pause picketing Friday after unofficial strikes

Sep 24, 2021, 7:07 AM | Updated: 7:19 am
A general view of Climate Change Arena as it undergoes construction in Seattle, Washington. (Photo ...
A general view of Climate Change Arena as it undergoes construction in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)
(Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

All Northwest Carpenters Union picket activities are temporarily paused Friday following unsanctioned wildcat strikes that took place Thursday.

In a letter from the union team, it states that “roaming protests headed by a small, unsanctioned group of protestors, that includes union and non-union members” led to Friday’s temporary closure. The letter also makes it clear that the union is still on strike, and says members who are required to withhold their labor will continue to do so until there is an agreement to consider.

Seattle-area carpenters hit the picket lines, demand higher wages

On Sept. 11, 56% of the union membership rejected the agreement and voted to go on strike. The contract extension expired at Sept. 15 at midnight. Picketing began on Sept. 16.

Now, just over a week into the strike, social media posts and emails are being sent out about potential protests being planned as tensions rise between carpenters and union leadership. One message, in support of the unsanctioned strikes, said: “More was accomplished in one day than our Council’s farcical strike has accomplished in a week.”

The official letter posted on the union’s website says picketing members have faced increasing threats of personal violence and property destruction from those participating in unsanctioned protests.

“Hundreds of our members have participated in highly successful, sanctioned, legal pickets this week and last week, at increasing picket sites every day, marching as one,” the letter reads. “We are disappointed that the actions of a few are getting in the way of our members’ right to strike.”

The NWCU says it has been contacted by legal counsel from several employees who are taking action against the union.

“In addition to potential safety issues, these wildcat actions, and roaming protests, conducted in the name of union carpenters, would likely drain union resources (union members’ dues), and threaten the livelihood of our members,” the letter details.

This isn’t the first point of tension in the strike. Evelyn Shapiro, executive secretary-treasurer of the NWCU, issued a statement on Sept. 18 regarding Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant’s interference in union contract negotiations.

“Outside interference in the fight for fair wages for 12,000 hardworking carpenters plays right into the hands of anti-union forces. We appreciate all elected officials who stand with us during the strike, but Seattle Councilmember Kshama Sawant is going too far by interfering in the NW Carpenter Union’s democracy just to grab the limelight for her own political agenda,” Shapiro’s statement reads, in part.

Sawant had posted an official statement Friday, Sept. 17, in support of the strike, which Shapiro says was interfering in the union contract negotiations.

The Northwest Carpenters Union represents 28,000 workers across six states — Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington, and Wyoming. While the workers are on strike, some construction projects are on hold, including the expansion of Microsoft campuses in Redmond and Sammamish, and the new Bellevue Plaza. The Climate Change Arena, Port of Seattle, and Sound Transit sites are not impacted by the strike.

The KIRO Radio Newsdesk contributed to this report.

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Northwest Carpenters Union pause picketing Friday after unofficial strikes