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Seattle-area concrete worker strike continues following failed session with federal mediator

A concrete workers strike in the Seattle area is now in its second month. It has put all kinds of construction projects on hold and has caused layoffs in many different trades.

On Thursday, Jan. 20, a session with a federal mediator yielded no progress, so the strike will continue.

Jamie Fleming, director of communications for Teamsters Local 174, said in a release that “the meeting went nowhere and the two sides are no closer to an agreement that would put an end to the strike that has gone on for over two months now.”

Numerous major construction projects are at a standstill because of the strike. That includes four Sound Transit light rail stations, 11 affordable housing developments, and work on the Convention Center.

No further negotiations are planned and picket lines will remain active until a contract is reached.

Earlier in the week, prior to Thursday’s mediation, Fleming spoke to KIRO Newsradio.

“There are currently 330 Teamsters on strike from six different companies at over 12 different locations, and the entire group has been out since Dec. 3,” Fleming said.

Prior to Thursday, the union had said they are ready to go back to the bargaining table any time, but that the employers had made a final offer that was 25% below other construction industry contracts.

“What the employers put forth as their last, best, and final offer was about 25% below what all the other trades had already agreed to,” Fleming told KIRO Newsradio. “These guys knew what it was going to take to get a deal ratified, and they came in underneath it — far underneath it. This is entirely their doing.”

A representative for the concrete companies said their workers are part of the Sand and Gravel industry, which is not the same as the construction industry. They said this is the best package they’ve ever offered, claiming that the union “has rejected good faith attempts to mediate and settle this matter.”

But Fleming says the workers think employers are trying to force their hands to accept something lower so they can systematically go after other trades and press them into taking inferior offers as well.

“Why did they decide to pick this fight in particular? I don’t know,” Fleming said. “This is an extremely militant group of members — they’re not going to cave. Those guys have been out there on those picket lines. They have proven, and proven, and proven that they’re not going to back down.”

Teamsters Local 174 says they hate the impact the strike is having on other trades, projects, and the industry as a whole, but that the strike will go on until employers go back to the negotiating table.

“We’re willing to go back to the table any time,” Fleming said.

“This fight is not one that we can lose because it just starts a ball rolling downhill, gaining speed, and they’re going to start coming after everybody,” Fleming added. “The other construction trades that are on layoff also understand how important that we not give in because they might come after them next.”

This story was originally published on MyNorthwest.