Strike by state’s construction workers appears to be over

The union says workers are being told to stop the pickets and return to job sites Friday morning.

By Mike Rosenberg / The Seattle Times

A deal has been reached to get crane operators, surveyors and other construction workers back to work following a 17-day strike that has shut down or slowed dozens of construction sites throughout Western Washington, including several in Snohomish County.

The Associated General Contractors of Washington, which represents most contractors throughout the region, said late Thursday it has reached a tentative deal with the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 302. The union, which also includes workers who pump concrete, hoist materials and lay pavers, confirmed the deal.

“All Local 302 members are going to be directed to report to work tomorrow,” the contractors’ group said in an email late Thursday. The union echoed that sentiment in a post on its website later in the evening.

If approved by union members, the deal would end a labor dispute that has been simmering since both sides began negotiating in May. Two prior deals reached by union and management leaders were voted down by union workers, prompting the strike that began Aug. 21.

The strike had quieted (quite literally, to the relief of some) Seattle’s construction boom. Most of the city’s nation-leading 65 cranes sat parked and unused as picketers marched outside construction site gates.

The deal comes after the contractors had beefed up their total compensation offer in bargaining sessions earlier this week, including more concessions made Thursday.

The tentative deal includes a total pay and benefits increase of 17.8 percent over three years, up from the 15 percent bump that had been rejected by union members last month, and an initial offer of 13.1 percent in July, according to a copy of the deal provided by the general contractors group.

The deal is a master labor agreement covering all of Western Washington. Workers on the outer edges of Western Washington, where the cost of living is lower, will receive a total 16 percent increase.

Members of the union make $37.70 to $43.13 an hour in base pay now, after a 6 percent wage bump over their prior three-year contract. That deal expired in June.

For the median worker classification in the union, pay would rise $7.48 an hour, from $41.29 now to $48.77 in 2020. Construction worker schedules can be erratic, but under a typical 40-hour workweek, that translates to about $101,400 in 2020, up from about $85,900 now.

On top of that, the workers will see their health and pension benefits increase by $3.22 an hour over the life of the contract, from $18.50 now to $21.72 in 2020.

The contract also includes a $1.25 in extra hourly pay for those working in downtown Seattle, up from the prior offer of a $1-an-hour premium.

Prior to Thursday’s tentative agreement, the union had added pressure by signing side deals with some individual contractors over the past week. Those contractors went around the parent management group by offering higher pay raises in exchange for access to union labor during the strike, allowing those projects to resume construction early. Nearly 50 contractors had signed onto the deal, according to the union, though most had not.

The strike’s length puts it somewhere in the middle of recent construction work stoppages. Last year, concrete drivers walked off the job but reached a deal a week later. In 2016, window installers went on strike for about three weeks. In 2003, a local carpenters union struck for 9 days.

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