Striking concrete workers urged to return to mediation, strike deal

SEATTLE — Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell is urging striking concrete workers to return to mediation and strike a deal.

The strike is jeopardizing the reopening of the West Seattle Bridge, which was on track to reopen by mid-2022.

Harrell had said that if the strike wasn’t settled by Feb. 20, the bridge’s reopening could face a “significant delay.”

“The reality is this will have a negative impact on the West Seattle Bridge project if not settled soon,” Harrell said.

For months, KIRO 7 has reported about the concrete workers on the picket lines.

When Jamie Fleming with Teamsters Local 174 was asked what the main sticking point was, she said, “As far as we can tell, this is philosophical at this point. It stopped being about the money it seems a long time ago because the employers have lost way more than this contract would have ever cost them. So, they’re trying to break the union.”

The strike is pitting around 300 ready-mix concrete delivery drivers — union members of Teamsters Local 174 — against six major concrete suppliers.

It has halted construction projects around Puget Sound and now the fate of the West Seattle Bridge is in jeopardy.

The city closed the bridge suddenly in March 2020 after cracks in the concrete were discovered.

Concrete companies have pointed to their offer, which includes wage increases of 17.6% over a three-year agreement.

“We’ve said over and over again that the offer that our members are going to ratify is gon’ to have to live up to all the other construction trades agreements that have been ratified over the last year and a half,” Fleming said.

When KIRO 7 asked Fleming what it would take to end the strike, she replied, “That’s a good question. So, the employers just filed a lawsuit to try and stop us from picketing and that didn’t work out for them. The judge told us we could still picket as much as we want. So, I’m hoping that was their Hail Mary and now that it didn’t get them a touchdown, maybe they’ll come back to the table.”

A recent statement from four of the concrete companies said they have bargained in good faith:

“Accusations have been levied against the companies of refusal to bargain. This is not a factual statement. The companies have, in fact, bargained in good faith. The companies maintain the belief that mediation through the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service allows for an unbiased, disinterested, and professional mediator to facilitate a possible resolution.”

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