CHOKEPOINTS

Concrete flows into Puget Sound region job sites, absent the Teamsters

Mar 3, 2022, 5:29 AM | Updated: 8:08 am
concrete...
Malcolm Drilling in Kent (Chris Sullivan/KIRO Newsradio)
(Chris Sullivan/KIRO Newsradio)

Concrete is once again being delivered on some big King County projects, but it’s not being delivered by Teamsters. That has the tempers flaring in this three-month-long strike.

A giant inflatable rat and dozens of picketers greeted the employees of Malcolm Drilling in Kent early Wednesday. The picketers had heard the company was using non-Teamsters drivers and concrete trucks from the regional suppliers to deliver concrete to their job sites, and they were not happy.

Malcolm Drilling’s district manager, John Kvinsland, said he crossed the line of angry picketers and went out to talk to them.  He said he was verbally assaulted and went back inside.

KIRO Newsradio was told by sources the company then turned on giant air compressors, which make a high-pitch sound. That was later confirmed by a pro-union Facebook page called Scabs of King County, and there was concern fire hoses were going to be used to disperse the picketers.

Kvinsland confirmed the use of those compressors.

“To hear the expletives screamed over loud horns and the sirens constantly going, I have people that work outside in this environment,” he said. “We effectively just tried to drown out the noise. I mean, we listen to air compressors all day long — it’s part of our job. If we can get some kind of monotone going outside instead of having my employees have to listen to the rhetoric, that’s what we did.”

What about the potential for fire hoses?

“No violence intended and no violence planned,” he said.

Kvinsland also confirmed that his company is using other labor union members, with the proper certifications, to deliver concrete. They are laborers, carpenters, and operating engineers. And while he sympathizes with the 330 striking Teamsters, he just can’t go without concrete anymore.

“I have a responsibility to my clients,” he said. “I have a responsibility to my owner. I have a responsibility to our people to put them to work and get them to work and get the ball rolling.”

He said he’s had to lay off more than 100 people during this strike, which actually started in November for his company when the union started its action against Stoneway Concrete.

“Their families need to work, and same with the families of their brothers at Malcolm Drilling,” he said. “We have to get to work.”

And the financial losses are mounting.

“The losses are in the seven figures, easy, and keep in mind that I’m just a drop in the bucket,” Kvinsland said. “I’m a lowly subcontractor. There are contractors that have losses far more dramatic.”

The company will continue to use other union workers to deliver concrete to the job sites, and more contractors are going the same route.

“I think the majority of them are pursuing their own trucks,” he said. “In talking to my peers in the industry, they’re gearing up to haul more concrete. One started [Wednesday], and he’s going to double his operations by Friday.”

By the way, Kent police were called to the protest, and it broke up peacefully.

Check out more of Chris’ Chokepoints.

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Concrete flows into Puget Sound region job sites, absent the Teamsters