MARYSVILLE — Thousands of union carpenters across the region are heading into their third week on strike after rejecting a proposal from the Associated General Contractors of Washington.
“Right now, with inflation being what it is — the cost of housing, childcare … parking has gotten extremely, extremely expensive,” said John Lehman, Northwest Carpenters Union bargaining committee member and member of North Puget Sound Carpenters Local 70. “That’s something that’s coming directly out of our members’ pockets on a daily basis. And we are really, really wanting to get a fair contract that addresses the rising costs of those things.”
Dozens of Northwest Carpenters Union members picketed in front of the Marysville civic center construction site Wednesday. They represented those working on the project, as well as projects in Skagit and Whatcom counties, Lehman said.
Gloria Hirashima, chief administrative officer for the city of Marysville, said the city has no comment on the strike. About 100 union members work at the site, said Jeanie-Marie Price, Northwest Carpenters Union communications director.
The city’s nearly $50 million civic center is slated to open early next year.
Since the strike began Sept. 16, union members have picketed at job sites across the greater Seattle area, including an Amazon project in Everett, according to a carpenters union news release.
The picketing came to a halt Friday, after the union received reports of “altercations, threats of violence, illegal picketing activity, harassment of union members walking on sanctioned picket lines, and threats of legal actions from multiple employers regarding wildcat strikes.”
But the strike will continue, and picketing may resume Monday.
More than 5,000 union members participated in the vote that rejected the proposal from AGC, and authorized a strike. About 44% voted in favor of accepting the AGC’s offer, but the majority — 56% — voted no.
The proposal 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.
“The AGC of Washington is disappointed and perplexed the union is proceeding with this strike following such a robust and competitive package offer,” the AGC said in a Sept. 16 statement.
Union members were surveyed during the course of the bargaining process in aim to best address their needs, Price said.
Lehman said because of increased costs of living, workers are having to commute longer distances.
“You have a couple-hour commute potentially each way every day, and then on top of it, you have that added cost of parking. And so it’s just getting extremely expensive, and it’s pushing our members farther and farther out of the communities that they’re working in and trying to build.”
This is the fourth proposal that’s been voted down by the membership since bargaining began.
Union members will continue to strike until the union comes to a “fair agreement” with the AGC, Price said.
“I think it’s really important for the general public to understand that this line of work is extremely hard on someone’s body,” Lehman said. “You do this for 20 to 25 years — somebody could be really physically beat up. And we want our members to be able to retire with dignity, and have a pension there. We want our members to have access to great health care. And so that’s why it’s so important to us to negotiate good contracts for our membership.”
Isabella Breda: 425-339-3192; email@example.com. Twitter: @BredaIsabella.
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