Concrete strike negotiations resume with federal mediator Thursday

Feb 23, 2022, 2:16 PM

concrete strike...

Crews install concrete ties for ballasted track on Mercer Island (Courtesy Sound Transit)

(Courtesy Sound Transit)

Teamsters 174, the union representing approximately 300 concrete drivers currently on strike against six concrete suppliers in Washington state, will resume negotiations via federal mediation on Feb. 24.

Those negotiations have stalled in recent weeks and months. The last reported negotiation between Teamsters 174 and the employers was in late January. The Teamsters have been vocal in their dissatisfaction with the refusal of the employers to bargain directly.

“It’s incredibly disrespectful to the spirit of these workers. … It’s just so disheartening. And I don’t even know what their endgame is. It doesn’t make sense,” Jaime Fleming, spokesperson for Teamsters 174, told KIRO Newsradio’s Gee Scott and Ursula Reutin.

Late last week, a King County court issued a restraining order against the Teamsters, limiting strike actions on site. The employers allege that strikers on the picket line racially taunted a non-represented employee of CalPortland and threatened a driver with a picket sign. The Teamsters allege the accusation holds little evidence, pointing to the fact that the court’s relief request was largely denied (strike actions are now only prohibiting trucks from moving in and out of site, something the Teamsters claim rarely happens regardless).

The concrete strike has been ongoing with all employers since Dec. 3, and with Gary Merlino Construction since Nov. 19. Impacted construction sites range from Microsoft’s headquarter expansion to light rail construction sites in Western Washington and the repair of the West Seattle Bridge.

Delays to the latter prompted King County Executive Dow Constantine to offer up a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) toward the concrete suppliers — a direct agreement with the county that it estimates is valued at $28 million to $35 million over a three- to four-year period. King County reports that the cutoff date to keep the West Seattle Bridge repair on schedule expired earlier this week.

What’s next for West Seattle Bridge as concrete strike continues?

Fleming clarified the Teamsters’ demands Wednesday, saying that because the concrete drivers do not negotiate with the AGC of Washington, the trade group that represents construction contractors in the region, their wages and benefits have fallen behind the industry standard.

“Concrete mixer drivers are sort of the redheaded stepchild of the construction industry, which is what they have been called by the other construction trades,” Fleming continued. “[They] don’t negotiate with the AGC. They are considered a supplier versus an actual direct contractor with the AGC. The result is that the package for the concrete drivers has consistently fallen further and further behind everyone else.”

Over the summer, separate construction drivers reached an agreement with the AGC. Fleming tells MyNorthwest that Gary Merlino ready mix concrete drivers are looking for similar terms under that agreement, specifically with regard to increased retiree health care benefits. The employers released a statement clarifying their proposed terms, which go beyond that AGC agreement, including guaranteed eight-hour pay each day, paid holidays, paid vacation, paid bereavement, paid jury duty leave, and company seniority.

Thursday’s appointed mediator will be the same as in January: Beth Schindler, regional director of field operations with Federal Mediation & Conciliation Service.

Gee and Ursula Show

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Concrete strike negotiations resume with federal mediator Thursday