CHOKEPOINTS

‘We’re nowhere close to breaking,’ say concrete drivers as strike enters fourth month

Mar 4, 2022, 5:37 AM | Updated: 7:48 am

concrete strike...

Striking concrete drivers with Teamsters 174 circa March, 2022 (Photo courtesy Teamsters 174)

(Photo courtesy Teamsters 174)

As non-Teamster drivers deliver concrete and construction projects finally get materials they have been waiting on, is that hurting the morale of the 330 workers on the picket line?

If the plan for putting non-Teamsters in those trucks this week was really to weaken the morale of those workers, it might have backfired.

“We’re ready to stay out as long as we need to,” Local 174 spokesperson Jamie Fleming said. “This group is nowhere close to breaking.”

Fleming admits it hurts to see those trucks moving, especially with another union member at the wheel.

“It’s tough seeing a union brother take your work while you’re out on the street instead of having your back,” she said.

She said contractors using non-Teamsters drivers, like Malcolm Drilling, are not helping the overall situation.

“Any action that anyone takes that makes the strike last longer, they’re just shooting themselves in the foot,” Fleming said.

Fleming also said their strike benefits are holding, and those that can donate to the fund.

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

From the union’s perspective, the contractors should be pointing their fingers at the concrete suppliers.

The Teamsters acknowledge that this strike, which began Dec. 3, is hurting everyone: from those that have lost their jobs, to the companies that are losing money, to their own union members.

“The amount of money that everyone is losing because of this strike is so over-the-top, and we’re not that far apart economically,” Fleming said. “They have to do more than $0.15 [per hour].”

Those 15 cents are the crux of negotiations, according to the Teamsters. The top union priority is getting more money for the retiree medical plan, and Fleming said it shouldn’t be that big of an ask.

“You look at that $0.15 they offered us in December, and then at the $0.15 they added at mediation — 15 more cents and we’d be there,” she said.

An offer of $0.15 more an hour for that medical plan, the union said, would help get to that top priority, but technically both sides are still $0.46 an hour apart on that.  KIRO Newsradio has asked the companies if this was accurate and has not yet received a response.

That takes us back to Wednesday morning at Malcolm Drilling when the company used air compressors to drown out the noise of the demonstrations at the picket line.

“It was so loud; it was painful,” Fleming said. “As we looked in the building, we could see all the guys in the windows laughing, smiling, and taking pictures. They thought our pain was hilarious.”

Fleming became emotional describing it.

“They are scabbing our work, and then they are hurting us physically and are laughing about it,” she said. “What are we supposed to do with that? It was really, really insulting.”

I asked Malcom Drilling about these accusations. General manager John Kvinsland said that if his employees were laughing, it was in relief that the noise of the picket had stopped.

After taking the union’s temperature, I’d say it’s pretty hot, and the resolve, even after three full months, is still strong.

Check out more of Chris’ Chokepoints.

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