EVERETT — After 13 days of picketing for higher wages, hundreds of Northwest Carpenters Union members headed back to work on job sites across the county Wednesday.
During the strike that straddled three weeks, Paul Galovin, representative for the Pacific Northwest Regional Council of Carpenters, said dozens of carpenters showed up to picket at project sites including Premera in Mountlake Terrace, Spruce Elementary in Lynnwood, the Marysville civic center and the Foushee project near the airport in Everett.
“Showing up early in the morning for picket lines and then doing that all day and walking 20,000 to 25,000 steps a day and screaming at the top of our lungs is not the physical toll that I’m used to putting on my body,” said Ryan Case, a carpenters union bargaining committee member, during a news conference. “It’s been a little unnerving. But, thank goodness, we were able to reach an agreement and we’re getting back to work because that’s what I do. I show up and I do what I’m told and I’m happy to do it.”
The strike began after union members voted down a fourth tentative proposal from the Associated General Contractors of Washington, which included a 20% raise over four years, the addition of Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a holiday, and increases in health and pension contributions.
Since the Recession, the conversation coming off the bargaining table continues to be “it’s hard to get you the wages you guys deserve,” Galovin said.
Bargaining committee members reached a new tentative agreement with the Associated General Contractors Tuesday.
The new deal includes a 15.43% raise over three years. That means union members will receive a raise of roughly $10 in wages and benefits in three years — rather than the roughly $9.80 that was proposed in the previous agreement, said union rep and bargaining committee member John Lehman.
Union carpenter apprentices start at around $28 an hour. Every six months they receive a raise as they take classes and advance up the ladder until they reach journeyman status. A journeyman makes over $45 an hour.
The new agreement also provides $1.50 an hour for those within the Bellevue or Seattle parking zones. The cost of parking was a concern shared across membership, Lehman said.
The fourth proposal was ultimately struck down because many union members were not prepared to agree to a four-year contract, Galovin said.
“A lot of our members just said that they weren’t comfortable with that fourth year,” said Evelyn Shapiro, NWCU executive secretary-treasurer. “They wanted to preserve the three year bargaining cycle that we were on.”
Nearly 12,000 union members will begin voting to ratify the contract Thursday evening. Voting will close Oct. 11 at 6 p.m. and results will follow.
A simple majority is needed to ratify.
Lehman said he would be surprised if membership did not vote to ratify.
“This fight for wages is a working class fight,” Galovin said. “Since the ’70s, the ultra-rich have been getting richer and richer. … Fighting to keep a middle class and to elevate the lower class in order to be able to get into the middle class is kind of the mission.”
Isabella Breda: 425-339-3192; firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @BredaIsabella.
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