EVERETT — After a three-week strike, the Northwest Carpenters Union’s fifth tentative agreement with the Associated General Contractors of Washington passed by a few hundred votes Monday, securing a $10.02 increase to wages and benefits over three years.
“You’ve got to be able to have an opportunity for somebody who is going to work their knuckles bare for an employer,” said Paul Galovin, representative for the Pacific Northwest Regional Council of Carpenters. “This community … these buildings and roads and bridges — all of these people are putting their lives on the lines to build these things. But they’re being able to do it at a wage that is respectable.”
By June 1, 2023, union carpenters will be making $53.70 per hour. They currently make about $45 an hour.
About 5,300 union members cast their vote to accept the agreement. Roughly 500 union members are working in Snohomish County on projects including Premera in Mountlake Terrace, Spruce Elementary in Lynnwood, the Marysville civic center and the Foushee project near the airport in Everett.
Bargaining began early this year, and the union’s contract was extended multiple times after it expired in June, Galovin said. After the fourth tentative agreement was rejected, union members hit the picket lines.
The AGC of Washington said in a September statement it was “disappointed and perplexed” with the union’s decision to strike after five months of negotiations.
The strike spanned three weeks, including 13 days of picketing. It was among the largest in 18 years, Galovin said.
In 2003, thousands of union carpenters across Western and Central Washington walked off the job for better health care.
This fall, the strike affected hundreds of job sites as dozens of union members in Snohomish County spent hours on the picket lines in the fight for higher wages.
Bargaining committee members reached a new deal with AGC last Tuesday.
“Our members fought hard for these important improvements in the contract, putting their livelihoods and their bodies on the picket line for 13 days of striking at dozens of job sites across Western Washington,” said Evelyn Shapiro, NWCU executive secretary-treasurer in a statement after voting closed Monday evening.
Ultimately, the agreement passed with 2,853 yes votes and 2,465 no votes.
Galovin said thousands of members feel the agreement fell short.
The new three-year contract includes a 15.43% overall increase to wages and benefits and $1.50 per hour for those within the Bellevue or Seattle parking zones.
This agreement offers a slight bump from the $9.80 increase to wages and benefits that was proposed in the previous agreement, said union rep and bargaining committee member John Lehman.
“It’s a fight,” Galovin said. “The carpenters have a fight and it’s kind of front and center right now, because there was a strike — there was action on the front. The big picture is that this conversation is to increase that middle class opportunity for workers throughout our nation.”
Isabella Breda: 425-339-3192; firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @BredaIsabella.