Layoffs ‘into the thousands, more to come’ as concrete worker strike nears third month

Picket lines on major construction sites around the Puget Sound region have been in effect since November 2021. Thousand of construction workers have been laid off as a result, and more will likely follow as negotiations with concrete suppliers remain at a standstill.

Jaime Fleming, a spokesperson with Teamsters 174, representing 330 workers employed by various local concrete suppliers, told MyNorthwest that “employers are still stonewalling and refusing any contact or conversation with us.”

Fleming also noted that “thousands” of construction workers have been laid off over the course of the strike “with more to come.” Striking members with Teamsters 174 lost health coverage Feb. 1.

Speaking in front of Sound Transit’s Board of Directors on Jan. 27, Peter Rogoff, the agency’s chief executive officer, detailed the number of layoffs that have affected major construction sites related to the transportation agency.

“The strike is not only having a very troubling impact on our light rail extension to Lynnwood, the Eastside, downtown Redmond, and Federal Way, but also to our construction workforce. As of today, our contractors have had to lay off more than 174 workers from our construction sites, due to the lack of concrete and delays to associated work, with additional layoffs threatening an additional 120 workers at the end of this month,” Rogoff said.

“Since early December, or after the strike began, we’ve missed delivery of more than 14,000 cubic yards of concrete. That’s equivalent to 1,400 truckloads, or, to give you some perspective, a line of concrete trucks stretching more than nine miles in length.”

At the time of the meeting, Rogoff was optimistic that the federal negotiator brought in to smooth contract talks over would resolve the strike.

The Teamsters describe the federal mediation as an “unmitigated failure,” according to correspondence with the labor group in late January.

Concrete suppliers affected by the strike include Gary Merlino Construction, Stoneway Concrete, Cadman, Glacier/CalPortland, Salmon Bay Sand & Gravel, and Lehigh Cement.

Workers with Gary Merlino Construction walked off the job on an Unfair Labor Practice strike on Nov. 19. The other suppliers have been impacted by similar strikes since Dec. 3.

Construction sites delayed by the strike go beyond light rail extensions. Eleven affordable housing projects with over 1,400 apartments are affected, in addition to the multibillion-dollar expansion of Microsoft’s headquarters. The Washington State Department of Transportation said the strike has led to contractor layoffs and delays across its projects in King County, including the 520 Bridge project and the expansion of 405 between Renton and Bellevue.

Over the summer, Teamsters 174 resolved a separate AGC Construction Agreement on behalf of construction industry drivers. Fleming confirmed that the terms under that agreement were similar to those proposed to Gary Merlino Construction, and the decision to strike was over a proposed retiree medical plan, tantamount to demand for an additional $0.46 an hour.

“The Companies have provided the Teamsters with the best package we have ever offered which includes a 17.6% pay increase over three years, improves pension contributions, provides excellent medical benefits, and generous retiree medical insurance rarely found in other labor contracts,” reads a statement from January on behalf of the employers.